"And therefore though this Gentlewomans modesty would not thrust it into the Press, yet her gratitude unto God made her not hardly perswadable to let it pass, that God might have his due glory and others benefit by it as well as herself. I hope by this time none will cast any reflection upon this Gentlewoman, on the score of this publication and of her affliction and deliverance."
In the original publication of The Sovereigny and Goodness of God, Rowlandson's narrative was preceded by a preface written by an unknown minister, presumably Increase Mather, and followed by her late husband's final sermon. The two pieces by male ministers functioned to shift focus away from Rowlandson's gender, legitimize her narrative, and place focus on her experiences with divine providence instead of her experiences as an individual captive. This quote demonstrates the desire to protect Rowlandson from criticism and to set her and her narrative forth as instructive models for the pious.
"It is a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here, some there, like a company of Sheep torn by Wolves. All of them stript naked by a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out."
By describing the Christians as sheep, she casts them in Biblical terms as innocent and as God's chosen people. On the other hand, by using the term "Wolves" and "hell-hounds," Rowlandson casts the Native Americans as heartless, predatory, demonic creatures. Her simile sets the stage for the structure of her narrative, which presents the English colonists as God's chosen and the Native Americans as the plague sent by God to afflict the English and thereby bring them back to the ways of the Lord.
"I cannot but notice the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen: They were many hundreds, old and young, some sick, and some lame, many had Papooses at their backs, the greatest number at this time with us, were Squaws, and they travelled with all they had, bag and bagagge, and yet they got over the River aforesaid; and on Munday they set their Wigwams on fire, and away they went: On that very day came the English Army after them to this River, and saw the smoak of the Wigwams, and yet this River put a stop to them. God did not give them courage or activity to go over after us; we were not reday for so great a mercy as victory and deliverance."
This passage demonstrates the force of Rowlandson's belief in divine providence, and also shows a complication. While she understood it to be divine providence when her feet remained dry while crossing a river, she initially finds it "strange" that God protects the Native Americans. She complicates her view in order to reinforce her faith and reach a broader understanding of God's influence. She argues that when the English fail and suffer, it is due neither to the courage of the Native Americans nor to the weakness of the English, but only to the will of God.
"Before [the horse liver] was half ready they got half of it away from me, so that I was fain to take the rest and eat it as it was, with the blood about my mouth, and yet a savory bit it was to me."
Mrs. Rowlandson, at the beginning of her journey, refused to eat crumbs that were offered her. She now eats bloody liver to protect it from theft. This behavior shows her adaptation to her environment. The animalistic nature of covetously eating bloody meat and enjoying it serves as a contrast to her identity as a "civilized," high-status, English colonial woman.
"Sometimes I met with favour, and sometimes with nothing but frowns."
As Mrs. Rowlandson's journey progresses, she is surprised at the many acts of kindness from Native Americans. While sometimes she is comforted and cared for, other times she is denied food or treated with some violence. Her statement shows that she is no longer surprised by either kindness or violence, evidencing a more complicated understanding of the people among whom she is a captive.
"Then they packed up their things to be gone, and gave me my load: I complained it was too heavy, whereupon [my mistress] gave me a slap in the face, and bade me go; I lifted up my heart to God, hoping Redemption was not far off: and the rather because their insolency grew worse and worse."
While Mrs. Rowlandson considers Wettimore her mistress, she does not respect her as such. While Wettimore is a Native American political leader, Mrs. Rowlandson is a high-status English colonist. While she is Wettimore's servant, she feels a sense of contempt for being treated below her status, as evidenced by her use of the word "insolency." Wettimore, as her mistress and as a Native American leader, is upset by Mrs. Rowlandson's complaints and, one can speculate, by her sense of status. This passage demonstrates the complicated power dynamics between the two women.
"That night they bade me go out of the Wigwam again: my Mistrisses Papoos was sick, and it died that night, and there was one benefit in it, that there was more room."
While one might expect Mrs. Rowlandson to sympathize with the death of Wettimore's child, especially given her sympathy for other dying children she meets in captivity and the recent death of her own daughter, she feels none. Instead she feels selfishly glad on some level. Such a lack of sympathy could be due to prejudice against Native Americans, a toxic view of Wettimore, or simply due to her own callousness.
"Then I went to another Wigwam, where there were two of the English Children; the Squaw was boyling Horses feet, then she cut me off a little piece, and gave one of the English Children a piece also. Being very hungry I had quickly eat up mine, but the Child could not bite it, it was so tough and sinewy, but lay sucking, gnawing, chewing and slobbering of it in the mouth and hand, then I took it of the Child, and ate it myself, and savoury it was to my taste. Then I may say as Job Chap. 6. 7. The things that my soul refused to touch, are as my sorrowful meat. Thus the Lord made that pleasant refreshing, which another time would have been an abomination."
As Mrs. Rowlandson steals from an English child, as opposed to a Native American one, she seems to clearly act in in contradiction with her religious values. It is interesting that she includes this episode at all and, moreover, that she appears completely unapologetic. She instead thanks the Lord that such an unpalatable food tastes savoury.
"There was another Praying-Indian, who when he had done all his mischeif that he could, betrayed his own Father into the English hands, thereby to purchase his own life. Another Praying-Indian was at Sudbury-fight, though, as he deserved, he was afterward hanged for it. There was another Praying Indian, so wicked and cruel, as to wear a string about his neck, stung with Christian fingers."
This passage is an excerpt from a longer list enumerating treacheries by Christian Native Americans. Mrs. Rowlandson harshly criticizes Christian Native Americans throughout her narrative, in contrast to the view of some colonists, such as missionaries, that Native Americans can be saved by conversion. Rowlandson's argument that the division is English/Native American instead of Christian/non-Christian illustrates an argument based in racial prejudice.
"When all are fast about me, and no eye open, but his who ever waketh, my thoughts are upon things past, upon the awful dispensation of the Lord towards us; upon his wonderfull power and might, in carrying of us through so many difficulties, in returning us in safety, and suffering none to hurt us. [...] Oh! the wonderfull power of God that mine eyes have seen, affording matter enough for my thoughts to run in, that when others are sleeping mine are weeping."
While Mrs. Rowlandson draws many parallels between her spiritual journey and that of the English people, this passage, which comes towards the closing of her narrative, emphasizes her view that she has a special relationship to God. Her affliction gives her a better understanding of God and shows that she is favored by him. She demonstrates her uniqueness by saying that while all others have their eyes closed, she is weeping over God's goodness. This passage evokes the preface, in which the unknown author describes Mrs. Rowlandson and her narrative as a model for others.
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is captivity narrative, and obviously the religious themes throughout are the driving force of the story. This sort of Puritanism lends itself very well to the idea of liberation from captivity precisely because...
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God by Mary Rowlandson.