How does Rowlandson portray the Wompanoag in A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Mary Rowlandson portrays the Wompanoag as devilish creatures. She describes "the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head," "a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting," "black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell." Rowlandson calls the Indians "ravenous beasts" and "inhumane creatures," and is horrified at "the hideous insulting and triumphing that there was over some Englishmen's scalps that they had taken."

Writing from the Christian Puritan perspective of the times, Mary Rowlandson wonders why "God strengthened (the Wompanoag) to be a scourge to His people." It is true that, as a victim of a vicious Indian attack and a captive against her will for eleven weeks, Rowlandson had contact with the Wompanoag under the most barbarous of situations. She was treated abominably, forced on a long march while carrying her dying child, and deprived of food and comfort for long periods. She witnessed many atrocities, and her anger and bitterness, as well as her faith, is expressed clearly in her writing.

It is interesting that Rowlandson does note that, on some occasions, the Indians exhibited elements of decency and humanity towards her. One offered her a Bible, knowing that she would find solace in it, and she says that, despite all, "not one of them ever offered me the lest abuse of word or action." Still, the trauma of her treatment at the hands of the Wompanoag, and the perception she has of them from her own upbringing make it impossible for her to even consider them as fellow human beings who have also suffered wrong at the hands of the white man.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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I agree one hundred percent with the original answerer.  The Wompanoag ARE portrayed as "devilish creatures," . . . for the most part.  I say this because one of my very favorite research papers I did in my college years was on this literary piece and how ironic it was that Rowlandson included so many incidences of compassion from the Wompanoag.  Therefore, take this with a grain of salt, . . . or at least for an opposition paragraph someday at the beginning of a paper.

Let me give a few examples that might guild that opposition paragraph, however.  First, one of them actually gives Mary Rowlandson a Bible out of the kindness of his heart:

I cannot but take notice of the wonderful mercy of God to me in those afflictions, in sending me a Bible.  One of the Indians that came from Medfield fight, had brought some plunder, came to me, and asked me, if I would have a Bible, he had got one in his basket.  I was glad of it, and asked him, whether he thought they would let me read?  He answered, yes.

Very appropriate, of course, that she gives GOD the credit for giving her the Bible (considering the graphic context of the story).  Yet another example of compassion is Rowlandson's "light" load she was given compared to the other captives:

In this travel, because of my wound, I was somewhat favored in my load; I carried only my knitting work and two quarts of parched meal.

Other members of the tribe give her good amounts of food at various times during the narrative (such as horse liver, peas, cake, venison, nuts, broth, horse feet, beans, biscuits, and meal) just to "comfort" her.  And, of course, there is the fact that her "master" of the Wampanoag "showed me the way to my son," again, not necessary.

My final conclusion was that, although the Wompanoag showed compassion, it was no different than the compassion a white master showed to his African-American slaves on the plantation.  Yet, the compassion still exists, . . . for what it's worth.

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