Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison, Lois Lenski combines several sources to create a fictionalized version of a true story. Near the close of a long life lived among her Native American friends and family, Jemison dictated her memoirs, which were first published in 1824. Using Jemison’s own memories of her experiences as a base, Lenski then added a thorough study of the Seneca way of life—the tribe’s customs, activities, attitudes, and perspectives. Lenski skillfully blends these elements into a uniquely accurate and detailed story of Native American life.

Lenski follows a simple narrative format, presenting Jemison’s story in chronological order. Because this biography is directed at younger readers, Lenski alters the facts to create a story that she believes to be appropriate for children. For example, while Jemison’s exact age at the time of her capture is not known, Lenski deliberately chooses the lowest probable age. Jemison is thus pictured as a child and is protected from the hint of sexual situations. In her introduction, Lenski explains that she further simplified the story for her young readers; the baby, who in the fictional version belonged to Jemison’s Seneca sister Shining Star, was in fact Jemison’s child, born to her of a Native American father.

Much of each chapter is devoted to detailed descriptions of frontier life in the eastern American colonies in the late 1700’s. The first chapter...

(The entire section is 431 words.)