267 Religion: Saying Yes to the Colonial Encounter

Joshua Bartsch

In the text The Female American, Unca Eliza Winkfield guides the reader through a vivid, fast-paced, and suspenseful narrative of love, family, betrayal, survival, unity, and difference. This sounds like a synopsis for a mid-day soap opera. Unca illustrates the clashing of two cultures, specifically the two religions of the cultures. Not only does Unca utilize the difference in the religions to define clear boundaries, she also assimilates to European Christian beliefs, in pursuit of unity and love, showing that religion can save the lives of people as a whole.

Early in the story religon comes up immediately after the first encounter of the European colonists and the indigenous people. Unca writes “Men, for I see you have legs, arms, and heads as we have, look to the sun, here he pointed up to that luminary, he is our god, is he yours?” (48). Here Winkfield shows that the physical likeness of the colonist and the indigenous people holds more validity than the difference in skin pigment, but all that really matters, in determining if a new invading species is friend or foe, relies solely on what God they pray to. Just before the moment of Unca’s father’s death, he is saved from having his head cut off,

“My father, expected the same fate; but just as the executioner was about to give the stroke, a maiden, who stood by the king, and whose neck, breast, and arms, were curiously adorned with jewels, diamonds, and solid pieces of gold and silver, and who was one of the king’s daughters, stroked my father with a wand. This was the signal for deliverance; he was immediately unbound, and a covering, like the Indians wore, was put round his body, and a kind of chain, formed of long grass, round his neck, of a considerable length, one end of which the princess took hold of , and gently led him along” (49).

Now, there is a lot to unpack from this quote but let’s start with the physical description of the the “maiden” whom we soon find out is the king’s daughter. She is described as firstly a maiden, meaning she is single and ready to mingle. She is also wearing “jewels, diamonds, and solid pieces of gold and silver”, meaning every kiss does begin with K.

One thing to really focus on is the verbiage “deliverance,” this word is heavily rooted in religious context and is synonymous with the word salvation, which, in the Christian faith, is attained through accepting Jesus Christ, God’s one and only begotten son (John 3:16), as Lord and Savior. Side note: it is interesting that Unca’s father is bestowed a chain of “considerable length”; keep in mind that he is just naked as a blue jay in front of everyone in the indigenous tribe, so let’s just assume we now know why the king’s daughter stroked him with her wand. Am I right? Anyways, to briefly conclude, this whole interaction between the daughter and Unca’s father reads of indigenous ritual tradition, specifically with intentions of a union of marriage based off the fact that the daughter quite literally “led him along,” taking Unca’s father away to get to know more about who her future hubby really is.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Joshua Bartsch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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