The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God Literary Elements


Anglo-American Captivity Narrative

Setting and Context

Southern New England in 1676 during King Phillip's War

Narrator and Point of View

Author Mary Rowlandson is the limited first person narrator. She is not reliable, as she includes false stories of Christian Native American behavior. At the end of the First Remove she blames Christian Native Americans of attacking Lancaster, even though historical records show that they had already been exonerated in court. She is inconsistent in how she does or does not frame human actions in terms of divine providence and in how she describes the Native Americans.

Tone and Mood

As Rowlandson navigates an attack, captivity, and an intersection of cultures, her tone shifts between dramatic, ideologically righteous, pious, curious, and fatigued. Present throughout her narrative, though, is a confidence in God's power and in His afflicting her for her benefit.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists are Mrs. Rowlandson and the English Puritans. The antagonists are the Native Americans.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is the war between the Native Americans and the English settlers that instigated Mrs. Rowlandson's captivity. Mrs. Rowlandson frames this conflict as God's will and as punishment to the English for becoming overly comfortable and insufficiently dependent on God. The parallel conflict is Mrs. Rowlandson's navigation of cultural boundaries and wish to return home while held captive by the Native Americans.


The climax takes place at the opening of Mrs. Rowlandson's narrative, when the Native Americans attack her town of Lancaster, disrupting her and her friends' and family's comfortable lives there and thrusting Mrs. Rowlandson and her children into captivity.


The preface, the opening, and Rowlandson's asides about post-captivity life make clear that Mrs. Rowlandson and many of her loved ones escape captivity unharmed, thus removing any suspense as to whether or not they will survive.




Rowlandson's narrative is peppered with allusions to scripture, as she often turns to scripture in times of pain and of gratitude. The presence of such allusions increases after the point in the narrative when a Native American gives her a Bible. She includes no classical allusions or allusions to any outside work other than the Bible, making the focus of her work clear.


Rowlandson describes the attack on Lancaster in vivid, grotesque detail. She also describes Native American practices such as the great dance (a pre-war ritual) and her mistress's manner of dressing herself in great detail. In the case of the pre-war ritual and her mistress's dress, Rowlandson appears to be appalled, but her vivid description belies, perhaps, a greater interest.


Even when Rowlandson sees the Lord as causing her affliction and preserving and strengthening the Native Americans, she affirms that the Lord is good and increases her dependence on Him. She does so insisting that she is being afflicted for her ultimate benefit.


Rowlandson's many Biblical allusions draw parallels between her and Biblical figures, casting herself as a martyr beloved by God. Her allusions also draw parallels between the Native Americans and Biblical enemies and demons.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Rowlandson frequently refers to her master and mistress, to her company, or to other groups of Native Americans simply as "they" or "the Indians," thus using, in a sense, a whole to represent a part. Such language contributes to her intermittently monolithic portrayal of the Native Americans and of her lack of discernment among groups within the Native Americans given her prejudiced lens.


Mrs. Rowlandson describes the wilderness in which she walks as "howling" (80) during the Sixth Remove. This personification contributes to her depiction of nature as a threatening force.