The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God Summary and Analysis of Removes 5-9


The Fifth Remove

The whole group of Native Americans flee very quickly from the English who pursue them, with some strong men returning to distract the English while the others escape. They carry all their belongings, and sometimes each other, and "a great Indian" is carried on a bier until it is too much of a hindrance. Mrs. Rowlandson, being weak, does not have to carry much. When she asks if she can have a bite of the food she carries, her mistress says no. 

The Native Americans make rafts to cross the Bacquag River. Rowlandson considers it a favor of God that she does not get her feet wet, as many others did, when she boards the raft. She notes that, a few weeks into her time with the Native Americans, food which she would not eat or had difficulty eating is now delicious. She is forced to continue making cotton stockings for her mistress on the Sabbath on threat of their breaking her face.

Rowlandson comments on "the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen," who were weighed down by their possessions and by the frailty of some, and yet crossed the river and burnt their wigwams just before the English arrived at and were stopped by the river. Rowlandson believes God did not help the English cross the river and emerge victorious over the Native Americans because they are not sufficiently living in the ways of God as to be ready for his deliverance, and she cites scripture to support her claim.

The Sixth Remove

After setting the Wigwams on fire, the group crosses an icy brook. Mrs. Rowlandson is among those who cross via a beaver dam, and she again cites God's providence as preventing her from getting her feet wet. She laments leaving her home farther behind and traveling into the Wilderness. She is overwhelmed by the number of Indians who surround her when she gets a view of the swamp where they are setting up camp.

The Seventh Remove

They have a difficult day of traveling from the swamp, though Mrs. Rowlandson is comforted by the English grazing sites and paths they find. They eat the wheat and corn remnants of an abandoned English field. Mrs. Rowlandson finds two ears of corn, one of which is stolen from her. She asks a Native American with a basket of horse liver to give her a piece, and he asks if she can eat it. She says she will try if he would give her a piece, which he does. While she is halfway through cooking it on the coals, some of it is taken from her, so she quickly eats the rest, bloody as it still is, and finds it savory. 

The Eighth Remove

The group attempts to cross the Connecticut River to see King Philip, but some, including Mrs. Rowlandson, are forced to go four or five miles upstream after English scouts are spotted. During a midday rest, Mrs. Rowlandson's son Joseph suddenly appears. They bemoan their current state to each other and read the Bible together. Rowlandson cites a specific psalm which she thinks justifies her narrative's publication: "To declare the Works of the Lord."

They travel until night and cross the river in the morning. For the first time, Mrs. Rowlandson weeps in front of the Native Americans. One asks why she cries, and when she answers that they would kill her, he assures her she will not be harmed. Another gives her two spoons of meal to comfort her. A third gives her half a pint of peas. She then visits King Philip, who bids her sit down and offers her a smoke, which she understands as a compliment but declines due to her prior weakness for tobacco.

King Philip and other Native Americans commission Mrs. Rowlandson to make articles of clothing for their family, for which she receives money, food, and a dinner invitation from King Philip. At the dinner with King Philip, she eats a pancake fried in bear fat that seems the most pleasant meat she has ever tasted. She offers the shilling she earned to her master, but he tells her to keep it. She prepares a meal with the bear meat and peas she earned for her master and mistress. Her mistress, "the proud Gossip," would not eat the dish because Rowlandson combined the bear and peas. 

Rowlandson goes to visit her son and finds him lying down, which she is pleased to discover he does so that their captors cannot tell he is praying. 

The Native Americans return from North-Hampton with horses, sheep, and other plundered goods. Rowlandson requests to be taken on horse to Albany and sold for gunpowder.

The Ninth Remove

They do not go to Albany but rather five miles up the river and then across it. A man pays Rowlandson with a knife for two shirts she made, and she is glad to please her master by giving him the knife. She gets leave to visit her son a mile away and becomes lost. By the providence of God, no Native American she encounters does her "the least imaginable miscarriage." She turns "homeward" and her master shows her the way to her son, who is ill.

Worrying about her children and the lack of Christian friends around them, she finds some solace in scripture but still feels restless. She wanders through the wigwams, and a woman gives her a piece of bear meat. She returns to the same woman so that she can boil her meat, and the woman allows this and gives her ground nuts. Another day, when it is cold, Rowlandson enters another wigwam, and the woman lays a skin for her by the fire, gives her ground nuts, bids she return, and says they would buy her if they could, "and yet these were strangers to me that I never saw before."


Rowlandson is surprised at "the strange providence of God in preserving the heathen." She explains that God punishes the English for not living sufficiently in his ways. Rowlandson does not entertain the notion that God would want to protect the Native Americans simply to protect them; instead, he does so in order to teach the English. Thus, every event that may appear good or bad for the English ultimately centers on their long-term benefit as God's chosen people, a status Rowlandson does not doubt. Her argument also serves as a demonstration of faith. Instead of losing faith in God when he preserves the enemy or does not protect her and the English, she emphasizes all the more emphatically his role in shaping the course of human events. Finally, her argument serves as a strong general criticism on the English people, including herself. 

While she may still refer to them as "heathen," Rowlandson's understanding and depiction of her captors grows more complicated. Instead of always using a monolithic "they," Rowlandson describes conversations with individual Native Americans. Using a friendly tone, she describes her interaction with the Native American who gives her liver to eat. When describing her interactions with her mistress Wettimore, she calls her "the proud Gossip." Such an insult could easily be thrown at an English woman, making the rivalry appear to be more woman to woman than English to Native American.

In addition to more frequently depicting Native Americans as individuals, Rowlandson also describes acts of kindness on the part of the Native Americans without qualification. She describes the man's gift of liver, the group's comfort when she cries at the river, the hospitality of King Philip, the generosity of her master when he tells her to keep her coin, and the charity of the woman in the wigwam, "yet these were strangers to me that I never saw before." While some may interpret Mrs. Rowlandson's calling the Native Americans "enemy" or "heathen" as a sign that their kindnesses were lost on her, the very fact that she reported these acts provides evidence of her appreciation. 

Her agency expands as she sews goods and prepares food, and her ability to prepare and enjoy Native American food further shows her adapting to this world. Also, her eating still-bloody liver to protect it from those who might steal it interestingly exhibits savage behavior in the literal, animalistic sense of the word. Her references to the lack of Christians and her reading and citing the Bible now seem to be a tool to ground herself in her identity as she adapts to and intermittently enjoys her captors' world. 

It is important to keep in mind that Rowlandson wrote her narrative in retrospect, not as the events were unfolding. As such, the evolution in her understanding is constructed after having already lived through the entire captivity experience. It is interesting to contemplate with what level of intentionality Rowlandson shifts her tone towards the Native Americans as well as her sense of identity throughout her narrative.