258 My Religion is Better than Yours

Amelia Berube

When it comes to The Female American, there is a large load placed upon the role of religion. As with a lot of historical literature, there are several mentions of God or religious passages spliced into the narrative. Not only does this novel deal with those same religious “fundamentals,” but it also tries to bring to light the religious conversion that many Native Americans went through during colonization.

Unca Eliza’s father is captured by the natives, but soon becomes one of them and falls in love with the chief’s daughter, Unca. They spend many happy days together, then Unca proposes the two get married. Winkfield, or as Unca so lovingly calls him: “Winka,” initially hesitates. Why? Because she worships heathen gods, of course! “As she was a Pagan, though my father sincerely loved her, and wished for that union, he could not help shewing some uneasiness at the proposal…. ‘Yes, my dear Unca,’ cried he, ‘I do, but my God will be angry if I marry you, unless you will worship him as I do’” (Winkfield 51). Of course, the plea for Unca to change softens her heart and she does so for the man she loves.

However, this has heavier implications than simply changing for the one you care about (not that anyone ever should.) Firstly, Winkfield didn’t think once about changing for Unca. Though he has mostly assimilated to the ways of this tribe, he refuses to budge when it comes to his belief in a higher power. Normally, that would be something different entirely. But let us be reminded that Winkfield doesn’t even think of going back after he falls for Unca. He never thought he would leave, that is until unfortunate circumstance befalls them. So why cling to religion? Why let it stop you? Especially if it stops you from being with someone you claim to love. Even then, it is Unca that has to change, because he feels his religion is superior in nature. He could never convert. But she must, for it is his will. Winkfield literally imposes it on her. At the end of the paragraph, it even says that “…the princess became convinced of her errors…” (Winkfield 51). He has to convince her that she is wrong. I can only imagine what would have happened if Unca had felt the way he did, and taught him how great her gods were.


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

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