“The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”, arguably the most famous captivity tale of the American Indian-English genre, is considered a common illustration of the thematic style and purpose of the English captivity narrative. As “the captivity genre leant itself to nationalist agendas” (Snader 66), Rowlandson’s narrative seems to echo other captivity narratives in its bias in favor of English colonial power. Rowlandson’s tale is easy propaganda; her depiction of Native American brutality and violence in the mid-1600s is eloquent and moving, and her writing is infused with rich imagery and apt testimony that defines her religious interpretation of the thirteen-week captivity. Yet can a more comprehensive
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English publishers marketed the narrative based on her engaging and palpable metaphors and adventuresome spirit, in addition to her subject matter. Rowlandson evokes the looming image of “Indians…as thick as trees” on pg 318, and weaves immediate action and excitement into her isolation: “it seemed to be as if there had been a thousand hatchets going at once. If one looked before one there was nothing but Indians, and behind one, nothing but Indians, and so on either hand, I myself in the midst and no Christian soul near me . . .”. Rowlandson’s narrative is even poetic in describing her good fortune to have a Bible during her thirteen-week ordeal; scripture “was a sweet cordial to me when I was ready to faint” (Rowlandson 316). Yet did Rowlandson's embellishing pen write for the literary thrill of London audiences or her obedient record of God’s will in her life?
Rowlandson’s cultural lens and authorial intent are two complex perspectives to interpret. She is a white British woman in colonial America, writing of her captivity with the Algonquian Indians for religious European audiences. She thus focuses her tale on the Christian spiritual awakening that saved her in the ordeal. Yet what did she know about the Indians she lived with? While other publications dramatizes the brutality of notorious King Phillip, Rowlandson does not vilify the leader of the Indians who killed her family. King Phillip, or Metacom,