Mary Rowlandson Essay Example
King Philip's War, also known as Metacom's War, is historically known as the last major effort by the Native Americans to drive out the English settlers from New England. The war was destructive to New England's economy and the Native American's sovereignty of their regions. Both sides suffered tremendous loss—mainly through death—but many more were left wounded, widowed, homeless, or enslaved. One of the many victims whose life was drastically altered by the war was Mary Rowlandson. On February 10th of 1675, Mary, her children, and her neighbors were snatched by a hostile party of Native Americans. Many of the captives perished at the hands of the Native Americans while Mary Rowlandson survived due to her ability to adapt to the Native American lifestyle.
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson
After being captured, Mary was put through the dreadful task of living with the "Barbarous Creatures" (77) without the comfort of her family and her own home. As the wife of a minister, she lived a very comfortable life, so being thrown into a world without those securities was an abrupt change. Mary had to acclimate to the Native Americans' everyday lifestyle which implies nomadic behavior and eating whatever is available. On the fifth "Remove", the Indians had to flee the English and had to trek across the Bacquaug River in order to escape. This is where Mary learned to eat anything that was accessible. "The first week of my being among them, I hardly ate any thing; the second week. I found my stomach grow very faint for want of something; and yet it was very hard to get down their filthy trash" (85). Food she would never eat was now delicious to her. During her seventh "Remove", Mary and the Indians travelled through a swamp where they found a deserted English field full of different grains. Mary picked some spoiled corn and ground nuts and then came across an Indian with some horse liver. "I was fain to take the rest and eat it as it was, with the blood about my mouth, and yet a savory bit it was to me: For to the hungry Soul, every bitter thing is sweet" (87). During the first couple of weeks with Indians, Mary never thought she would ever eat horse meat or spoiled corn, but once she learned that starvation was imminent, she altered her diet to be more practical. Her diet became more varied during the eighth "Remove". While at dinner with King Philip, she tried bear meat for the first time and she "never tasted pleasanter meat" (89). Her ability to adapt to the food they found in deserted villages or dirty trails was key to her survival.
As a mistress, Mary had a difficult time familiarizing with the social aspect of the Indian society. Shortly after being captured, she was sold to Quanopin, who displayed only kindness to Mary, rather than hostility that came from the "mistresses". Mary quickly learned to not show any defiance or disrespect to the "mistresses" and to become submissive to orders instructed by any hierarchical power. Ironically, the submission allowed for Mary to become more independent. "Philip spake to me to make a shirt for his boy, which I did, for which he gave me a shilling" (89). With this shilling, she bartered for a piece of horseflesh. Later that day, she received "Pease" and "a piece of Bear"(89) because she knitted a pair of stockings and a shirt. At this moment, Mary found her niche in the society. She realized her newly found skill of sewing could be traded upon and help her form friendships. During the ninth "Remove", she made two shirts for an Indian by the riverside and , in return, he gave her a knife. Mary offered the knife to her master who graciously accepted. "I had any thing that they would accept of, and be pleased with"(90). Mary was very pleased to know that her master approved of her gift and it was different because she did not receive anything. However, this gesture was to help become acquainted to her master who is an Indian. In the earlier weeks of her captivity, she did not want anything to do with Indians and she called them "merciless Enemies" and "Pagans". This shift of attitude from Mary is very radical, but Mary realized that she needs a friend in order to earn any protection. After a couple "Removes", she is found by her master in Wachuset and she is in a very weak and filthy state. Her master tended to her needs rather than letting her die which spoke volume to Mary because it reassured her that she has an ally and a protector in the group,
Mary Rowlandson Summary
Mary Rowlandson survived in the hands of Native Americans due to her ability to adapt to the Native American lifestyle. As starvation crept behind her throughout the first couple of "Removes", she came to the conclusion that she needs to stop being picky and eat whatever is obtainable. Instead of being a lonely captive, she needed to befriend someone in order to get some connections. By being compliant, she was able to find a skill that allowed her to become helpful in the Native American society. With this skill, and her talent of negotiation, she made multiple trades which provided her with the necessary food to eat and gifts to give. Mary Rowlandson's capability to turn her helpless condition, where she was stripped away from her family, to a condition where she became more intuitive and involved in a society in which she despised.
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