Mary Rowlandson Study Sheet
  Narrative of the Captivity

The introduction lists four reasons or motivations that the editors suggest for Mary Rowlandson’s decision to publish an account of her captivity. What are these reasons or motivations? According to the introduction, why was Rowlandson’s work accepted for publication even though it was unsual for women to be permitted pbulications in Puritan New England?

Identify the following characters: Mary Rowlandson, King Philip, Wampanoeg tribesmen, Robert Pepper, Weetamo, John Gilberd of Springfield, Wattimore

wearisome: (adj.) fatiguing; exhausting
tedious: (adj.) tiring; dreary
lamentable: (adj.) regrettable; distressing
entreated: (v.) asked sincerely; prayed to
plunder: (n.) goods seized, especially during wartime
melancholy: (adj.) sad; sorrowful
decrepit: (adj.) run down; worn out by age or use
savory: (adj.) appetizing; agreeable
affliction: (n.) pain; hardship
bewitching: (adj.) enticing; irresistible

Study Questions

1. How does the Narrative demonstrate Puritan theology and thinking at work?

2. In what ways does Rowlandson use her experience to reaffirm Puritan beliefs? How does she view herself and her fellow Christians? How does she see the Indians? What do her dehumanizing descriptions of the Indians accomplish?

3. Are there any instances where she seems to waver in her faith?

4. Why does Rowlandson distrust the “praying Indians”?

5. How does she use the Bible and varied scriptural allusions in her analysis of her captivity and restoration?

6. Does her world view change at all during her eleven weeks of captivity? Why or why not?

7. How does the Narrative combine/demonstrate/refute what Bradford in Of Plymouth Plantation and John Winthrop in A Modell of Christian Charity had to say about the Puritan’s mission in the New World?

8. The subject of food receives a great deal of attention in Rowlandson’s Narrative. How does Rowlandson’s attitude toward food change over the course of her captivity? Why is she so concerned with recording the specifics of what she ate, how she acquired it, and how she prepared it? What kinds of conflicts arise over food? What do her descriptions of eating tell us about Native American culture and about Rowlandson’s ability to acculturate?

9. How does Rowlandson use typology within her Narrative? What kinds of biblical images does she rely on to make sense of her captivity? How does her use of typology compare with that of other writers in this unit (Winthrop or Taylor, for example)?

10. In his preface to the first edition of Rowlandson’s Narrative, published in 1682, Increase Mather describes her story as “a dispensation of publick note and of Universal concernment” and urges all Puritans to “view” and “ponder” the lessons it holds for them. Does Rowlandson always seem to understand her captivity in Mather’s terms? How do the moments when Rowlandson narrates her experience as personal and individual complicate this imperative to function as a “public,” representative lesson for the entire community?

11. Many scholars view the captivity narrative as the first American genre and trace its influence in the development of other forms of American autobiographical and fictional writings. Why do you think the captivity narrative became so popular and influential? What might make it seem particularly “American”? Can you think of any nineteenth- or twentieth-century novels or films that draw on the conventions of the captivity narrative?

Short version of the text

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 10/09 at 08:43 AM
2009 Michael L. Umphrey