What rhetorical devices does Mrs. Rowlandson use to capture her attitude? 

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson tells the true story of her imprisonment by a group of Native Americans in 1675.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching part of her story occurs when her daughter, who had been injured and sick for some time, passes away on February 18. According to Rowlandson, her captors were unsympathetic and did not bother to attempt to aid her in caring for the child. Rowlandson uses the literary device of figurative language, which is the use of comparisons that are not literally true, to help describe the impact of the child’s death. In this example, she creates a simile, which is a comparison using a connective word such as “like” or “as.”

About two hours in the night, my sweet babe like a lamb departed this life, on February 18, 1675.

Figurative language is most effective when the comparisons relate thematically to the overall work. In this case, the use of the word “lamb” reminds the reader not only of the youth of the child, but also of the religious connection to Jesus Christ, who is often also referred to as a lamb in the Bible. Rowlandson has made numerous allusions (this is also a literary device, by the way) to the Bible to describe her situation and the nature and behavior of her captors. 

Wiggin42 | Student

Rowlandson relies heavily on scriptural passages to portray herself in the correct light. For instance she quotes Job 1:15  when she explains that “...I only am escaped alone to tell the news.” Job lost everything he loved but did not curse God. By making this comparison, Rowlandson sees herself has a Puritan version of Job. She sees it as her job to show society the horrible nature of the enemy and to serve as an example of how by staying true to her faith, she was able to make sense of and survive the ordeal. Rowlandson has a very self-righteous attitude and her carefully selected scripture reflects that. 

She also utilizes vivid imagery of native peoples which captures her negative attitude towards them. She takes great pains to emphasize their “heathen” and “barbarous” ways and goes so far as to compare them to the devil by claiming, “...the roaring, and singing, and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night ...made the place a lively resemblance of hell…” There is a sharp contrast between how she describes native people and herself reveals her self-righteous attitude.