Incompatible from the Start

While I think that there is a case to be made that the narrative of Mary Rowlandson implies a complicated relationship between the English colonists and the Native Americans, I believe that her writing does more to confirm a relationship of intolerance between the two groups. Going back to John Winthrop, we can see that his goal for the “City upon a Hill” was to create a new and more perfect Christian society in this newly discovered world. The decision to form this new society was above all else religiously motivated, and Winthrop didn’t lead the only group of Puritans to the new world out of a desire to spread Puritan ideals as can be seen in part of the Mayflower Compact from the Plymouth Colony that says, “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,”. Despite having been persecuted for their faith back in Europe, the Puritans were not seeking to create a new society built upon ideals of tolerance, but upon strict adherence to what they saw as the proper form of practicing Christianity. It seems unlikely that there could have been a friendly relationship between the two because of how incompatible both the Native American’s religion and lifestyle would have been to the goal of creating the “City upon a Hill.” Places like the Massachusetts Bay Colony had many regulations regarding interactions and deals with Native Americans to keep the two groups apart, and I think that Rowlandson’s writing reflects the social pressure to stay away from the Native Americans. She may describe them in a better image than other writing from the time, but she still details the brutality that they are capable of showing and portrays them as being different and partaking in a heretical lifestyle. Regardless of her true experience or feelings, she still tries to convince the reader that the Natives are demons sent by God to not only test her, but the colonies as well and that the lifestyle wouldn’t be good for true Christians. But after all, how many colonists might reconsider the strict and demanding lifestyle required by the Puritans if they knew what the Native American’s lifestyle was really like for anyone willing to join them?

-Ryan Bucher

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