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Mary Rowlandson (c. 1636-1711)

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Questions for Discussion and Writing

Rowlandson's Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) is the most detailed eyewitness account of "King Philip's War," the uprising by Metacomet which killed six hundred colonists and about three thousand American Indians. The war traumatized the settlements, which were already badly shaken by doubts about New England as a "city upon a hill." A Narrative can be an intense reading experience if we are sensitive to the deep turmoil within Rowlandson's consciousness. She has suffered terribly at the hands of the Wampanoags, and she has been raised to think of them as demons, Philistines, agents of the Devil -- but because Puritanism has also taught her to observe her surroundings closely, she is capable of seeing them as human beings as well.

1. Compare the opening paragraph of "The First Remove" to the opening two paragraphs of "The Nineteenth Remove." The entire narrative was written in retrospect, not as a journal. Therefore the rhetorical change (from "barbarous creatures" and "merciless enemies" to the milder language of the later passage) cannot be attributed to a change in the circumstances of Rowlandson as a writer. How might we account for it? Does Rowlandson achieve some final view of her captors?

2. Rowlandson is ultimately ransomed and allowed to return to her home. She describes this return in a long paragraph beginning with "But to return again to my going home, where we may see a remarkable change of providence." After all of her suffering and losses, what moral and spiritual crisis does she experience when she is finally saved? How does she explain her good fortune to her readers, and to herself?