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Published: 22-12-2019

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Rowlandson’s Depiction of Native Americans in The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Mary Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God recounts her experience of being captured by a group of Native Americans. Rowlandson’s description of this trek is very subjective and reflects her personal beliefs as well as the values of the time period. This is specifically clear to the reader in her descriptions of the Native Americans and their practices. Rowlandson portrays the Native Americans as an uncivilized men and women who have no claim to the land they occupy. She accomplishes this by dehumanizing them via her descriptions and by presenting them as a “savage” and “heathen” people. This is a clear reflection on her religious beliefs and from this one particular can infer that Rowlandson believed that the Puritan belief technique was the only “true” way to reside life and that Native Americans had no element in “civil” society.

One of the foremost techniques that Rowlandson shows her belief that Native Americans are not fit for civil society is by metaphorically casting them as wild animals and thereby dehumanizing them. An example of this comes early in the account (soon after the initial attack exactly where she is captured) as Rowlandson describes seeing “…so several Christians lying in their blood, some here, and some there, like a firm of Sheep torn by Wolves. All of them stript naked by a business of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our really hearts out however the Lord by his Almighty energy preserved a quantity of us from death…” (70). This passage reflects each Rowlandson’s religious and societal beliefs. It can be inferred from this component of her narrative that she sees herself and other Christian men and women as a domestic flock of tranquil, peaceful animals or a lot more precisely as God’s flock of chosen folks, whilst the Native Americans are cast as the Wolf destroying these “innocent” sheep. Additional on in the quotation she recasts the Native Americans as hell-hounds and presents a chaotic and gruesome picture of the destruction laid upon the village. What is striking about this certain passage is how it dehumanizes the Native Americans whilst also serving to portray them as ungodly men and women. It accomplishes this on two different levels overtly by saying the Indians are like wolves, and much more subtly through the use of biblical language emphasizing the fact that Rowlandson and her people are God’s creatures and the Natives are hell hounds. This reinforces the notion all through the narrative that the Native Americans are not match for civil society, but are a violent and savage folks that would kill members of God’s selected people.

There are quite a few examples of Rowlandson’s dehumanization, primarily based in religious beliefs, of the Indians all through her narrative. An additional such example happens in her description of her initial night with the Indians and how the “…singing and dancing, and yelling of these black creatures in the night…made the location a lively resemblance of hell” (71). This passage also illustrates Rowlandson’s potential to portray the natives as wild beasts. The language emphasizes the truth that these men and women are not practicing civil ceremonies, but rather are acting like savages. What is even far more striking, however, is her comparison of the complete scene to hell. She is successfully saying that Native American ceremony is akin to her religions conception of hell. This illustrates Rowlandson’s inability to see beyond her own puritan values and see the tradition at work within the Indian ceremony. She is unable to accept other belief systems and cultures without generating comparisons back to her personal personal belief method, which affirms not only how important these beliefs were in her society, but also how un-accepting her society was of values distinct from its own.

One particular may well argue that the reason Rowlandson depicts the Natives as such terrible, “savage” people is since they have just destroyed her village and killed several of her friends. Admittedly this is justification for the outrage that she felt. From the description she offers, however, it would seem that there is a lot more than easy anger towards the Indians – there is a belief that they are inherently a lesser individuals. This is evident in how she not only dehumanizes the Indians but also never fails to note that they are a heathen men and women. This once again reaffirms the truth that she sees herself on a higher moral platform than the Native Americans.

This ingrained belief that her society is God’s chosen one, and consequently morally superior, becomes apparent as she notes “the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen…” (79). She is genuinely amazed that God would preserve a class of folks that are in her view “savage,” which is a clear reflection of her beliefs that the Puritan folks are the only folks with a valid claim to this Earth because they are selected by God. Rowlandson’s view becomes even more plain as she recounts a couple of “remarkable passages of providence…” in which she once again betrays her disbelief in the fact that “God strengthened [the Indians] to be a scourge to His People” (104-105). When once again we are reminded of the truth that her puritan society is ordained by God, even though the Natives are but an affliction to that civil culture. All this betrays the truth that Rowlandson and other individuals in her society believed themselves to be a superior civilization and that these that differed from their beliefs were “heathen” and unfit for civilized society. Moreover the belief that the Natives have been a “scourge” to society emphasizes the point that the Puritans saw them as expendable men and women with no claim to the land that they lived on. The fact that Rowlandson never ever stops to examine the concept that probably all men and women are God’s men and women and have equal appropriate to live on the land, but instead can only see the Indians in a “savage” light, further confirms this notion.

1 problematic aspect of this account is that it cannot offer any other viewpoint on the matter. Rowlandson is never ever capable to step back and view the capture in the context of other events that had been occurring at the time. All she is in a position to see is the reality that the Natives had committed an atrocity against her men and women, yet she never considers the atrocities committed by the Europeans against the Natives or even the fact that the Indians inhabited the land before the Puritan settlers did. This possibly may be explained by the prior discussion of how she is unable to see the Indians on an equal societal platform which leads to her getting unable to feel any remorse for their plight – all she is in a position to see is a “heathen,” “savage” individuals. By way of her narrative we can see that the Native Americans are trying just as hard as her society to prosper and survive, but there is never an objective appear at this fact. The only examination of this matter comes by way of Rowlandson’s religious lens which only suggests that the Indians are struggling because they are not a “civilized” people and furthermore that they are not a Godly folks. One more truth that is in no way regarded as in the narrative is why the natives attacked her village in the very first location. By her account one would consider that the natives attacked unprovoked nevertheless, that is not the case. Rowlandson’s purpose, it seems, is to portray this as a battle between the “heathen” Native Americans and her religiously pure and civilized society. In the end she is able to frame this “battle” as a religious expertise testing her and the other colonists’ faith, which is totally ignoring the root of the issue. This reflects once more on her and her society’s Puritan beliefs that Europeans had been predestined to colonize the land and that they were not at fault for expanding outward. They believed that they had a accurate proper to the land and that the natives would have to move aside (or be forcibly removed) so that the Puritans could develop the land to which they had a God provided right.

What makes this narrative even more clearly a reflection of Puritan beliefs is in the way that Rowlandson can not even recognize the native’s benevolence right after capturing her. Although a captive, she is fairly nicely treated. Shortly soon after getting captured she tells how as she cried about her predicament there had been Natives who “gave [her] two spoon-fulls of Meal to comfort [her], and an additional gave [her] half a pint of Pease…” (82). Whilst these are minor comforts to her, they are gestures of generosity and goodwill upon the component of the natives who are in challenging instances themselves. Regrettably Rowlandson is in no way able to appear upon these acts of kindness with any objectivity and still cannot see previous her belief that the Indians are a lesser, uncivilized people. This is evident when, as she is back with her husband, she notes how glad she is to be no longer “hem’d in with the merciless and cruel Heathen…[but rather] with pitiful, tender-hearted and compassionate Christians” (108). The reality that she was truly comparatively effectively treated is lost on her in her recollection of the account. All she is capable to be grateful for is the fact that she is back with Christians.

Rowlandson’s narrative is the kind of subjective history that does not often give us with accurate details. An uncritical reading of this type of history could perpetuate fallacious notions about Native American culture. We must comprehend the context in which accounts such as Rowlandson’s took spot to critically examine the details presented and begin to appreciate the complexity of the historical moment.
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