In 1765 two very distinct groups of people would go to war. These groups of peoplewould be the puritans of Lancaster, Massachusetts, and members of the local Native American tribe, the Wampanoags. On February 10th, 1765 the Wampanoags would attack the citizens of Lancaster, capturing several, and killing several as well. Among the few who were captured was a woman named Mary Rowlandson and her six children. Mary Rowlandson, the wife of a pastor, would see this as a trial of god and detail her journey in her story A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration.
Rowlandson’s story starts off setting the mood of what it was like to be taken over by Native Americans at the moment of the attack. She talks about how the sun was just rising, “hearing the noise of guns” (Rowlandson 127), and the “smoke ascending to
heaven” (Rowlandson 127). If you were not already afraid of what the group of Natives were doing to these people, Rowlandson goes on to say that mothers and children were looking to the sky screaming “Lord, what shall we do?” (Rowlandson 128) From here, Rowlandson and her six children would be a part of the great number of Lancaster citizens who were captured by Natives.
Rowlandson gets into the nitty gritty in her first “remove.” The Natives show how brutal they can be when they make their way to a vacant house. Rowlandson asks if she may stay in the house with them instead of being left in the cold night to which one of the Natives responds with “What, will you still love English men still?” (Rowlandson 130) It is in this moment that Rowlandson learns that her and this group of people are not going to get along and that the Natives are not going to make any part of this journey easy for Rowlandson.
A heavy characteristic of Rowlandson is her faith in god. In her second remove she writes that “God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail.” (Rowlandson 130) God, while never officially making an appearance anywhere in the story, is almost a main character of this captivity narrative. Rowlandson writes in her third remove that “Yet, the Lord still showed mercy to me, and helped me; and as he wounded me with one hand, so he healed me with the other.” (Rowlandson 133). While the Natives are not typically nice people in this story and do not believe in the same god, they do show some sort of sympathy in the third remove. Rowlandson writes that “one of the Indians that came from Medfield fight, had brought some plunder, came to me, and asked me, if I would have a Bible he had got one in his basket” (Rowlandson 133). Rowlandson feels a sense of relief come over her as she once again has access to the word of her Lord and savior. Rowlandson even uses it as a chance to try and comfort some of the Natives. Rowlandson befriends one of the women in the tribes, Joslin, who is pregnant. Joslin tells her that they can no longer be friends due to the background that each of them come from and Rowlandson sees this as a moment to bring Joslin closer to god when she quotes Psalm 27 saying “‘Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart, what I say on the Lord’” (Rowlandson 134)
Ultimately, the Natives just wanted to prove a point to the Puritans. Sure, by 2017 standards, they were savages, horrible people who did horrible things, nobody would disagree with that sentiment. These people, however were warriors and they did what warriors did best. Rowlandson, while she never alludes to it, is a warrior as well. Some may even call her a mythological hero. Denise McNeil writes that “looking at Rowlandson in light of Campbell’s archetype of the mythological hero demonstrates Rowlandson’s potential as a cultural force. Rowlandson fits the pattern of the hero’s adventures…’a person of exceptional gifts’” (McNeil 649). The Native Americans put her through hell and back (this she would agree with) and she made it out alive and the Puritans had to work themselves day and night to get her back. The Native Americans ultimately respect her because of what they have done to her. In Rowlandson’s twentieth remove she says that “To return again to my going home, where we may see a remarkable change of providence. At first they were all against it, except my husband would come for me, but afterwards they assented to it, and seemed much to rejoice in it; some asked me to send them some bread, others some tobacco, others shaking me by the hand, offering me a hood and scarf to ride in; not one moving hand or tongue against it” (Rowlandson 139). These are gestures of respect. While they may not have exactly gotten along or did nice things, these two groups of people shared more in common than they thought.
One thing that the two groups have in common is a sense of home. Bridget Bennett writes in her response to Mary Rowlandson’s work The Crisis of Restoration that “home is increasingly recognized as a significant and productive critical concept thought it appears to be profoundly intuitive and universal, even stable, it names a set of connections and relations linking the material with the intangible and affective, rendering each more weighty as they are brought in relation to each other” (Bennett 334). This is probably the key to understanding both groups in Rowlandson’s story. The Natives feel that their land is under siege so they fight back and capture these people as a way to show that they will not go down easy. The puritans on the other hand, just want a new place to live where they can be themselves, and without many choices left to occupy, they chose what they thought would be the easiest to take over. This is where the clash comes in. These two groups of people want to live in the same place, but both want very different things that get in the way of each other’s lives, so they go to war and Rowlandson unfortunately just happened to be caught right in the middle of it all.
Rowlandson, Mary. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration. 1682.
Bennett, Bridget. “The Crisis or Restoration.” University of Leeds, web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=6&sid=2d747300-d3db-4084-89d6-
McNiel, Denise. “Mary Rowlandson and the Foundational Mythology of the American Frontier Hero.” Women’s Studies, vol. 34, no. 8, Dec. 2005, web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/