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Compare and contrast the personalities of Mary Rowlandson and the Wife of Bath.

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The most obvious grounds for comparison between Mary Rowlandson and the Wife of Bath lie in their resilience and strength of character. Rowlandson is known for a specific ordeal that she endured: her eleven-week captivity at the hands of Native Americans. She also suffered various other traumas, including witnessing the violent deaths of family and friends. The tribulations of the Wife of Bath are far less sensational. She has had five husbands and a wide experience of life generally, traveling widely to places including Jerusalem and Rome. However, although these are places of pilgrimage, the Wife of Bath is more interested in seeing the world than in religious observances.

There are two important points of contrast with Mary Rowlandson here. First, Rowlandson's adventures were thrust upon her. She certainly did not seek them out for the sake of experience. Second, Rowlandson appears to have been genuinely devout. She is always writing about the comfort that religion brings her in the midst of her sorrows. When separated from her children, she writes,

My son was ill, and I could not but think of his mournful looks, and no Christian friend was near him, to do any office of love for him, either for soul or body. And my poor girl, I knew not where she was, nor whether she was sick, or well, or alive, or dead. I repaired under these thoughts to my Bible (my great comfort in that time) and that Scripture came to my hand, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Psalm 55.22).

Rowlandson here displays the attitude of the ideal Puritan, whereas there is nothing remotely Puritan about the Wife of Bath, who quotes Scripture when it serves her purpose but is perfectly happy to ignore it when it does not.

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Compare and contrast the manner in which readers aquire a sense of the personalities of the Wife of Bath (from "The Wife of Bath") and Mary Rowlandson (from "Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson") from the way they are presented in their stories.

Both the Wife of Bath and Mary Rowlandson give the reader a sense of their respective personalities in the way they tell each of their stories. Both of them do so through the details they choose to relate about themselves as well as through the references they make to other sources.

For example, both the Wife of Bath and Mary Rowlandson choose to focus on certain details about their own lives and behavior. The Wife of Bath talks at length about her marriages, portraying herself as an expert on marriage and on men's behavior because she has been married five times. Similarly, Mary Rowlandson portrays herself as someone who is kind and giving, even in times of great stress, as when she read the Bible with another captive in order to cheer her and when she helped a Narragansett woman make a shirt for the woman's baby.

The Wife of Bath and Mary Rowlandson also both cite outside sources to support their views. The Wife of Bath cites Ptolemy's Almagest to support her position that one who has what they need won't care what other people have. Mary Rowlandson quotes the Bible several times to explain how she endured her capture by the Narragansett, including the loss of her youngest child to illness.

Even within these similarities, however, the Wife of Bath and Mary Rowlandson differ in how they convey their personalities, too.

The Wife of Bath states directly that she is an expert on marriage, yet she comes across as not very self-aware or trustworthy: her stories about her five husbands demonstrate that she's as much to blame as they are for her failed marriages, and her "quote" of Ptolemy doesn't actually appear in Ptolemy's work.

By contrast, Mary Rowlandson doesn't straight-out tell the reader, "Oh, I'm so kind" or "Look how patient I am." Instead, she conveys her feelings in the moment, whether they're of despair, fear, or hope. For example, at the start of the narrative, she twice refers to her capture as "the dolefulest day I ever saw." At the end of "The Third Remove," she describes how she "especially took notice" of Psalm 27 while reading her Bible, which gave her hope.

Unlike the Wife of Bath, Mary Rowlandson lets the details of her behavior speak for themselves. She tells the reader what she did and how she felt, and the reader can infer from those details that Rowlandson cares about others. The Wife of Bath wants us to believe she's an expert on marriage, but when she tells us what she did and felt, that version is so different from her claim that we end up inferring she's either lying or not aware of her own behavior.

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