274 False Miracles by the Hand of Faith

Grace Avery

Unca’s use of artificial miracles within The Female American undermines any potential religious message and casts an unfavorable light upon the Christian faith. In her first contacts with the local Natives, she plans ahead of time that she will fake a miracle for her own benefit.

“…I thought the extraordinariness of the event, my speaking to them, would appear miraculous, fill them with awe, and prejudice their minds greatly in favor of what I should say to them”



Unca, after having defiled a sacred space of the Natives, then uses her position of authority to ingratiate herself into the Native community, and in a position of power nonetheless.

“Our countrymen rejoiced to hear the good news, and all desire you will come and live among them; they will love you, obey all your commands, and will make you their queen…”


Unca has straight up faked events of spiritual significance, and now professes the miracle of Christ. She who lied and deceived in spiritual matters claims also to profess spiritual truths. It is only due to the knowledge of Christianity within the reader that gives credibility to her claims that she herself believes in the faith and that it is more than just another lie. Even worse, Unca seeks to increase superstitious beliefs wherever she is able to use them to gain personal power, such as gifts of treasure she offers to the Native priests. By intentionally obscuring the source of her treasure while conscious that it gave her an air of mysticism to the Native priests, Unca further solidifies her status as a prophet.

Unca is literally faking prophethood, as she herself refuses to dismiss the supernatural association between her and God which she has so carefully created. In other words, Unca has made herself a false prophet.

All these underhanded tricks are reminiscent of tales told of the Christian devil in European folklore where the devil tells lies to trick and delude people into idolatry, temptations or sexual disobedience. In fact this similarity between Unca’s actions and the methods associated with the Christian devil come back to harm her when her meaningless attempt to relive an event of great psychological importance to her, that being the origin of her ascension to false prophethood, ends up convincing sailors that she is the Devil and indirectly condemning herself to an incestuous marriage with a cousin who has now been barred from returning to England because of Unca’s actions.

Unca plays her hand very well at every step, and she is an excellent manipulator with a keen understanding of power dynamics and an admirable ability to understand the motivations so those around her, but she has abused her position as a religious authority in ways which Christianity itself tends to regard as very very bad, in such a way that her tale is not moral through the religious lens. Despite all this, many Christians may not criticize these schemes at all, seeing as they successfully convert many Indigenous people, and so The Female American makes Christianity look hypocritical and dishonest.


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

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