Mary Rowlandson Criticism - Essay

Richard Slotkin and James K. Folsom (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary Rowlandson: Captive Witness,” in So Dreadfull a Judgement: Puritan Responses to King Philip's War, 1676-1677, edited by Richard Slotkin and James K. Folsom, Wesleyan University Press, 1978, pp. 301-12.

[In the following essay, Slotkin and Folsom examine Rowlandson's work as both a captivity narrative and part of Puritan mythology and culture.]

“On the tenth of February 1675, came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: Their first coming was about sun-rising; hearing the noise of some guns, we looked out; several houses were burning and the smoke ascending to heaven.” So Mrs. Mary Rowlandson begins the first and probably the finest example...

(The entire section is 4465 words.)

David Downing (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “‘Streams of Scripture Comfort’: Mary Rowlandson's Typographical Use of the Bible,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3, Winter, 1980, pp. 252-59.

[In the essay that follows, Downing analyzes how Rowlandson uses the Bible and biblical phrases in her Narrative.]

Mary Rowlandson's Indian captivity narrative is saturated with references to the Bible. In her account of the ordeal (about twenty thousand words), Rowlandson draws on Scripture more than eighty times in the form of direct quotations, allusions to biblical characters, or echoes of biblical phrases.1 These frequent references to the Bible are used to interpret her experience...

(The entire section is 3345 words.)

Kathryn Zabelle Derounian (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Puritan Orthodoxy and the ‘Survivor Syndrome’ in Mary Rowlandson's Indian Captivity Narrative,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring, 1987, pp. 82-93.

[In the following essay, Derounian argues that the narrative duality in Rowlandson's work is the result of a tension between her religion and the psychological trauma she endured during her captivity..]

“Deut. 32.29, See now that I, even I am he, and there is no God with me: I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal neither is there any can deliver out of my hand.

(From the title page to the Cambridge “second...

(The entire section is 5017 words.)

Kathryn Zabelle Derounian (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Publication, Promotion, and Distribution of Mary Rowlandson's Indian Captivity Narrative in the Seventeenth Century,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1988, p. 239-61.

[In the essay that follows, Derounian discusses the dissemination and reception of Rowlandson's work from the first printing to the early 1800s, investigating various editions and how they served the book's different audiences.]

One of the first American best sellers with an estimated minimum sale of 1,000 in 1682 (Mott 303), Mary Rowlandson's only work—her dramatic first-person account of three months' captivity among the Indians in New England—was published in four...

(The entire section is 8732 words.)

Margaret H. Davis (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary White Rowlandson's Self-Fashioning as Puritan Goodwife,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 27, No. 1, 1992, pp. 49-60.

[In following essay, Davis explores how Rowlandson's acceptance of her role in the Puritan social order affects her point of view in her Narrative and how this acceptance allowed the work to be published.]

While hierarchical and logocentric prescriptions for seventeenth-century American Puritan society would appear to allow no room for assertive female activity outside the domestic sphere, the publication of The Soveraignty and Goodness of God … ; Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs Mary...

(The entire section is 4944 words.)

Teresa A. Toulouse (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “‘My Own Credit’: Strategies of (E)Valuation in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative,” in American Literature, Vol. 64, No. 4, December, 1992, pp. 655-76.

[In following essay, Toulouse argues that an important function of Rowlandson's Narrative is to ensure the author's reintegration into the society from which she had been abducted, and she examines several strategies that Rowlandson employed to achieve this end.]

After detailing God's “strange” providences to her Indian captors in the twentieth remove of her Narrative, Mary Rowlandson pauses to acknowledge a special providence to herself:

O the...

(The entire section is 9282 words.)

Michelle Burnham (essay date 1993)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Journey Between: Liminality and Dialogism in Mary White Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1993, pp. 60-75.

[In the essay that follows, Burnham examines the significance of Rowlandson's two narrative voices, the “colloquial” and the “biblical,” arguing that this dialogism arises from her Puritan, European culture coming into contact with the Native American culture of her captors.]

In the introductory segment of her captivity narrative, before the story becomes structured into a series of “removes,” Mary Rowlandson succinctly states her purpose: “that I may the better declare what happened to...

(The entire section is 6946 words.)

Deborah J. Dietrich (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary Rowlandson's Great Declension,” in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 24, No. 5, 1995, pp. 427-39.

[In the following essay, Dietrich argues that by being allowed to write her story, Rowlandson moved beyond the traditional Puritan expectations for women and that the experience changed her into a self-reliant person in some ways.]

Mary Rowlandson spent eleven weeks and five days in captivity among the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, and Narragansett Indians; during this time she traveled over 150 miles. Her captivity narrative, A True History of the Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, was published in 1682...

(The entire section is 5504 words.)

Christopher Castiglia (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Her Tortures Were Turned into Frolick: Captivity and Liminal Critique, 1682-1862,” in Bound and Determined: Captivity, Culture-Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst, The University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 41-86.

[In the excerpt that follows, Castiglia argues that Rowlandson's book reveals that her experiences as a captive challenged her Puritan beliefs, changed her identity, and forced her to find the means to act on her own.]

Anglo-America's first captivity narrative, published in 1682, commences a long tradition of exploration by white female captives of the relationships between racial and gender identities and...

(The entire section is 3518 words.)

Laura Arnold (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “‘Now … Didn't Our People Laugh?’ Female Misbehavior and Algonquian Culture in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity and Restauration,” in American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4, 1997, pp. 1-28.

[In following essay, Arnold discusses how Rowlandson lacks understanding of the culture of her Algonquian captors and what her work reveals about their society, especially its humor.]

Laughter has the remarkable power of making an object come up close, of drawing it into a zone of crude contact where one can finger it familiarly on all sides, turn it upside down, inside out, peer at it from above and below, break open...

(The entire section is 10241 words.)

Dawn Henwood (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary Rowlandson and the Psalms: The Textuality of Survival,” in Early American Literature, Vol. 32, No. 2, 1997, pp. 169-86.

[In the following essay, Henwood explores how Rowlandson uses the Psalms in her text and the importance of them in Puritan religion.]

[God] gave [David] the “shield of his salvation,” and girded him with strength to battel; and gave him the necks of his enemies, that he destroyed those that hated him. Therefore he gave thanks unto the Lord among the nations, and sang praises unto his name, awaking up his glorie, awaking up his Psalterie and Harp, awaking himself early, to praise the Lord among the peoples, and...

(The entire section is 8304 words.)

Parley Ann Boswell (essay date 1997)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary White Rowlandson Remembers Captivity: A Mother's Anguish, a Woman's Voice,” in Women's Life-Writing: Finding Voice/Building Community, edited by Linda S. Coleman, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1997, pp. 109-18.

[In the following essay, Boswell focuses on how Rowlandson defined herself by her sex and how her Narrative shows special concern for mothers and children.]

With troubled heart and trembling hand I write,
The heavens have changed to sorrow my delight

—Anne Bradstreet

And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace,...

(The entire section is 3908 words.)

Steven Neuwirth (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Her Master's Voice: Gender, Speech, and Gendered Speech in the Narrative of the Captivity of Mary White Rowlandson,” in Sex and Sexuality in Early America, edited by Merril D. Smith, New York University Press, 1998, pp. 55-86.

[In the essay that follows, Neuwirth looks at Rowlandson's work in terms of gender politics, arguing that the text features multiple narrators who favor a Puritan male ideology and its construction of femininity; he notes, however, that a female voice eventually does emerge.]

The captivity narrative of Mary White Rowlandson, long a staple of American literature anthologies, has come under new scrutiny of late.1 More than a...

(The entire section is 13541 words.)

Rebecca Blevins Faery (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Mary Rowlandson Maps New Worlds: Reading Rowlandson,” in Cartographies of Desire: Captivity, Race, and Sex in the Shaping of an American Nation, University of Oklahoma Press, 1999, pp. 52-77.

[In the following excerpt, Faery examines how Rowlandson's text was used in the formation of an American national character and identity founded on white male supremacy.]


So much has been made for so long of Rowlandson's interpretive biblical voice, of her structuring use of the Bible and conventional Puritan theology to comprehend her experience, one is tempted to believe that the preface writer's directive to read the...

(The entire section is 9971 words.)