55 A Guilty Victim

Samantha Latos

After examining Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, I have acquired an understanding of the concept of racial role reversal in terms of slavery, and a connection to themes found in our readings. Prior to reading this, I was unaware that white colonists were held captive by Native Americans. Evidently, American school systems have a racial bias. This narrative features an English woman who has been stripped from her home, and sold into slavery. Themes I connected to this reading are the deaths of innocent children, the superiority of the English language, and gratefulness to God.

In Bartolomé De Las Casas we are exposed to the disturbing idea of babies being drowned. In this piece, we learn about a little girl named Sarah. She was Mary’s youngest child, who had an exposed and untreated wound. On top of that, she was starved, pushed to exhaustion, and exposed to harsh climates. This torture eventually let to her untimely death.“I cannot but take notice how at another time I could not bear to be in the room where any dead person was, but now the case is changed”, Mary explained, “I must and could lie down by my dead babe, side by side all the night after”, (Rowlandson, third remove). The heartache she endured was unimaginable; the Native Americans tortured her mind, body, and soul. At the same time, we know that colonists were murdering Native American’s children as well. Following that context, both sides are very guilty. Although a victim in this story, we still see into Mary’s condescending mind. She is unfamiliar with their language, and so she insults it,“Oh the roaring, and singing and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell”, (Rowlandson, first remove). Her diction is very important here. The Native Americans are “roaring” and “hellish”. She labels them with animalistic qualities because she is fearful of them. She is demonstrating a fear of the unknown. If they had been yelling in English, she would not feel as alienated.

Mary has a very similar appreciation of God as Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Whenever they are weary of their location or their safety, they both find comfort in believing they are following the path that God has made for them. While reading, I was very inspired by Mary’s unshakable faith. When the Native Americans come to a giant river, they are forced to cross it on rafts they build themselves. She describes her gratitude for them, “By the advantage of some brush which they had laid upon the raft to sit upon, I did not wet my foot (which many of themselves at the other end were mid-leg deep) which cannot but be acknowledged as a favor of God to my weakened body, it being a very cold time”, (Rowlandson, fifth remove). This woman’s child just died, and she doesn’t know if she will see the rest of her family ever again. At a time of such grief, she can still find a way to appreciate staying dry. If it were me, I would be too distraught to care about whether my feet stayed dry or not. Perhaps all the loss she has endured has given her a deeper appreciation for the little things in life.

The concept of white slaves was problematic for me to read at first, since I was not familiar with discrimination under these circumstances. It did, however, remind me of a very serious current issue: human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are first abducted, and then taken away, only to suffer horrible variations of torture. This is the most common vacuum for slavery in our world today, and it is highly comparable to what Mary went though in 1682.


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

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