Identity in The Foundational Narrative of Mary Rowlandson

     Puritan colonial life afforded few models of identity for women such as Mary Rowlandson.  The subservient and God-fearing wife was a role she embraces in her own life narrative, and one that Puritan women in general were expected to fulfill. 

     Mary Rowlandson’s narrative and identity within that narrative are admittedly forged by more than just her gender and religion.  Her autobiography is more than just a spiritual one, it is also a captivity narrative.  Her enslavement at the hands of Native Americans obviously influenced her writing.  I was suprised at what a backseat it takes to her spiritual sensibilities.  Her religious diction is apparent almost immediately when she refers to the smoke from the burning houses as “ascending to heaven” (Rowlandson 137).   That even a minor detail such as this rings with the language of scripture and Christianity tells us that Rowlandson is writing to her identity.  She has added these details in to preserve her identity and voice in the text. 

    Her scripture like writing continues in her account of the Indian raid on her village.  The Native Americans are depicted as “heathens” which focuses on their non-Christianity more so than their hostile or racial identities.  More so than any of that, it is relevant to Rowlandson that they are not Christian.  This language is another result of Rowlandson’s puritanism.  Non-Puritans or Christians are seen as worthless.  She even remarks that it was a “solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood” implying that any other casualties would be and are negligible. 

     Although it is unlikely that Rowlandson’s stream of thought during these traumatic events included all this Puritan language and imagery, she has added it to preserve her identity, please her male Puritan writing sponsor, and for the sake of her Puritan audience.  As a model of identity, Rowlandson’s narrative is perfect example of a Puritan woman.

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