Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 457
Fritz has depicted the life of Pocahontas as honestly and accurately as possible. Because Pocahontas left no personal records, Fritz wrote her story using accounts of the Jamestown settlers and those of John Smith. She takes great care to inform the reader when she is making assumptions by using such...
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- Critical Essays
Fritz has depicted the life of Pocahontas as honestly and accurately as possible. Because Pocahontas left no personal records, Fritz wrote her story using accounts of the Jamestown settlers and those of John Smith. She takes great care to inform the reader when she is making assumptions by using such clue words as “maybe,” “might,” and “perhaps.” The book provides an unusual amount of background information about the Jamestown colony, which increases the reader’s understanding of the historical period.
In explaining her standards for selecting individuals to write about, Fritz wrote that “I don’t have to like the people I write about, but I do need to understand them. And however we end up—my subject and I—I expect to share with my readers a compassion that springs from looking at the world through someone else’s eyes.” Fritz accomplishes this goal with Pocahontas, as the reader can sense the difficulties that Pocahontas faced in living with and caring for people in two different cultures.
Pocahontas is described as a favorite daughter of Chief Powhatan who lived and grew up in a culture in which her needs were met. She was loved, esteemed, and allowed to participate in the life of her village. On the other hand, she was genuinely curious about the life of the English settlers. The bravery of Smith intrigued her, and she became fascinated with him. When she was captured by the English, Christianized, renamed, and married to Rolfe, however, the dissonance between the two cultures appeared in a variety of ways. She had to give up her language and speak only English; wear the stiff, awkward clothes of English women, rather than the comfortable Native American dress; and renounce Okee, a Native American spirit, in order to become a Christian. While in England, she learned of their plans for civilizing and educating her people; she knew these plans did not take Native American values into consideration.
At the end of the book, one empathizes with Pocahontas and with her inability to live in the two cultures. One feels an even greater sadness in the broader problem that the story of Pocahontas so skillfully portrays: the conflicts that peoples of two different cultures must face. The Double Life of Pocahontas asks whether the incongruencies of multiple cultures can ever be resolved peacefully and whether one culture must lose its identity in the process of assimilation into another.
Young adults will find this book to be educational because it is set in an under-represented historical period in the United States. It is also informative concerning Native Americans and their early relations with white settlers. Finally, the main character of the book is female, a gender that deserves greater representation in history.