The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God Themes

A Woman's Role in Puritan Society

Rowlandson is the second female author published in North America, a fact which finds expression in her narrative and its publication. The Preface to the Reader, authored by a male clergyman, provides legitimacy to Rowlandson's narrative, assures the reader that she is a modest woman, places her in relation to her reverend husband, and frames her narrative as a spiritual tool published only for the glory of God and the good of the public. Rowlandson deviates from this, somewhat, exerting a show of independence in telling a story that is not just about God but also about her as a spiritually special person with unusual, interesting experiences. Rowlandson's cognizance of her contemporaries' thoughts of her as a woman is evident in her narrative, in which she uses scripture to justify her publication and assures the reader that no one took sexual advantage of her during captivity.

Divine Providence

As the Preface to the Reader indicates, a primary theme in The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is the ubiquitous role of God's influence on human events. In the face of good and bad fortune and events grand and minute, Rowlandson affirms her faith in divine providence and in God's goodness. She affirms that nothing bad exists that is not God's doing and that is not for the ultimate good of his chosen people, i.e. the English. She explains that the Native Americans' damage to the English is God's means of making the English comprehend their full dependence on him so that they follow his ways. 

Puritan Superiority

In partnership with Rowlandson's framework of divine providence is the concept of the Puritans as God's chosen people. This concept is crucial to the narrative because God supposedly acts for the ultimate benefit of his chosen people. Such a sense of superiority gives Rowlandson hope and feeds into her prejudice against Native Americans. It also justifies the English claim to land which the Native Americans' occupied first, making the Native American captors the scourge of the English, in Rowlandson's eyes, instead of their victims.


Throughout Rowlandon's captivity, many Native Americans act charitably to her. They give her food and shelter, sometimes repeatedly, even though she is a stranger to them and their resources are scarce due to war. Rowlandson accepts food five or six times from a wigwam in which hang bullet-torn English clothes. When Rowlandson returns to the Christians, she praises their charity in raising her ransom and housing her, contrasting them with the "cruel Heathen." Ironically, many Native Americans gave her equivalent charity. It is unclear whether she intends to subtly draw a parallel or is simply inconsistent. Regardless, the theme of charity demonstrates Rowlandson's inability to draw a neat line between the Native American and Christian cultures. 


Rowlandson frequently describes the Native Americans as heathens or barbarians and describes violent behavior on their part. However, there are moments in which Rowlandson behaves animalistically or cruelly, blurring the line between who is or is not savage and what constitutes savagery. She gets blood on her face while she enjoys eating raw horse liver. She steals food from an English child and doesn't feel guilty about it. She feels unsympathetic at her mistress' child's death. She doesn't bathe for a month. In some cases, Rowlandson's behavior is an expression of her physical needs, and at other times it is only an expression of her hypocrisy.

Maintaining Cultural Identity

As Mrs. Rowlandson adapts to her surroundings, learning to like and prepare new foods, scavenging for ground nuts, trading her sewing skills, and experiencing Native Americans' kindness, she does not lose a sense of her English identity. She does so by framing her experience with her faith, frequently reading the Bible, seeking out fellow English captors, and fostering her prejudices. Her sense of superiority is an important tool for her to distinguish herself from the Native Americans and maintain her sense of identity. 

Racial Prejudice

Throughout her narrative, Mrs. Rowlandson references Christian Native Americans in negative terms. She makes a false historical claim to illustrate an example of Christian Native Americans' treachery. She accuses a Native American who now walks the streets of Boston of raising his sword at her. She goes on a long tangent enumerating different cases of Christian Native Americans' treachery, some of which sound sensational. She describes Native Americans' appearance as "foul." Her narrative thus argues not only for religious prejudice but also for racial prejudice.