What is the main theme and the most interesting topic of the book The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America by John Demos?  

What is the main theme and the most interesting topic of the book The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America by John Demos?

 

 

Expert Answers
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The book appears to address the main themes of identity and multicultural conflict. Eunice Williams's captivity is central to the story, and Demos explores these themes by highlighting her eventual choice to remain with her captors.

The main event that sets off Eunice's story is the Deerfield Raid. This is actually a historical event, and it occurred on February 29, 1704. Prior to the raid, the British and the French had been fighting for control of the American colonies. On that eventful day in February, almost 300 French soldiers and their Native American allies descended on the town of Deerfield in Massachusetts. They slaughtered more than 50 of Deerfield's citizens and took at least 100 civilians into captivity.

The captives were made to endure a months-long trek to Canada, and many died along the way. Among the captured were the Reverend John Williams and his family. Williams was a minister and a community leader in Deerfield. His daughter, Eunice, is the focal point of Demos's book. Reverend Williams was able to return to Deerfield after the Canadian French governor ransomed him, but Eunice had to remain behind with her Mohawk master. This was because Williams came up short in his initial effort to arrange a ransom for all his children.

Ironically, when Williams managed to arrange for Eunice's return, she refused to comply with her father's wishes. Note that Williams's main fear for his daughter was that she would be susceptible to the Roman Catholic religion. Williams was a devout Puritan, and he knew that the Native American allies of the French often converted to Catholicism. Many native converts also chose to intermarry with the French. Demos effectively highlights the deep multicultural and religious conflicts between the English and the French/ Native American allies in his book. He inspires us to explore the theme of identity within the context of these conflicts.

Eunice eventually married a Mohawk warrior, chose to embrace the Native American lifestyle, and converted to Catholicism. She never returned to Deerfield. In later years, she became the subject of sermons that warned about the pitfalls of falling prey to a barbaric culture and to ungodly influences. Essentially, Eunice is the "unredeemed captive" referenced in the book.

Probably the most interesting topic raised by the book is the question of identity. Is identity hereditary (static) or is it fluid? In Eunice's case, personal will was a major factor in influencing her unique decision to stay in Canada. She chose to reject her Puritan, New England roots in order to embrace a foreign identity, culture, and religion. Essentially, Eunice did not view her identity as predetermined or fixed. In an era when women had few choices and little personal agency, she chose to forge her own path in life. Interestingly, despite the fears of her Puritan community, Eunice's faith in God remained intact. You can read more about the real Eunice here.