The Captivity and the Restoration by Mary Rowlandson

I figured since Ruth and Cleo had written posts on this book recently, I would transfer this one over next from my old blog. You should definitely check out their posts, which are longer and have more interesting things to say about the work than I do. I originally read the work in 2008, and I don’t even know if I own a copy of it anymore!

The most popular and famous Indian captivity narrative was written by a puritan woman by the name of Mary Rowlandson. She watched as her village was burned down and her children captured by the Native Americans during the period that later became known as King Philip’s War. Her account delves into the horrors she faced under the captivity of the Native Americans. The book offers high drama as the Native Americans attempt to elude the Colonial army who are trying to save the kidnapped hostages, while also watching as Mary herself struggles with the psychological pains of hunger and keeping her faith in a time of distress, such as the death of one of her children from wounds in captivity.

The book also offers some insight into Native American culture, but this must be taken with a grain of salt when we consider the biased viewpoint. Likewise, Mary transforms her non-fiction account into true literature by her constant allusions to the bible, seeing her own harsh trials as scenes straight out of the holy book and turning to the psalms for comfort. In this text, we see the power of the Bible to inspire hope in an individual. Despite depicting the Native Americans as cruel heartless savages that have reduced their captives to a state of indentured servitude, Rowlandson also remembers to depict the Native Americans as individuals. For every cruel Native American who forgets to feed their captive, spits and snarls at them, there is another who will share their ground nuts and meat with a starving captive and show kindness to them.

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4 thoughts on “The Captivity and the Restoration by Mary Rowlandson

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. It was helpful to read another perspective. I know so little about the Puritans and her narrative was so straightforward, it was hard to make contact with the author and therefore, for me, very hard to review.

    On the brighter side, I’m reading Confessions by Rousseau at the moment and I absolutely LOVE it. He was so unique! And it’s almost impossible not to connect with him in one way or another. 🙂

    • Sometimes it’s just hard to connect with some books. It probably helped that when I originally read the work in 2008 I was still living in New England, so many of the place names and even tribal names were familiar to me.

  2. What made me shake my head was this: she appeared to have freedom b/c she was able to roam about and scrounge for food in the surrounding forests or go from tent to tent to find a place to keep warm without anyone overseeing her. I know she was terrified of the wilderness, and she may not have known her way home; but that may have been why she did not try to escape, other than she would have been killed if she were caught. But I did not understand the point of her captivity. What did the Natives want with her? She seemed to be a burden, and no one cared if she was around. Why did they bother taking her? It just seemed like a waste, unless the point for the Natives was monetary gain for her redemption in the end. I don’t know. It was all very odd.

    • They could barter them with other tribes for items of need or they could ransom them for large sums of money from the colonialists. They could use them as slaves/servants for certain types of menial work. Many of these tribes had adoption traditions in which they could replace dead tribe members with a new one (in this case one of their captives). (source)

      James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales (i. e. The Last of the Mohicans) explores this in fiction with the main character Natty Bumpo being a white man raised as a Native American.

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