Mary Rowlandson “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”
Mary chooses to victimize herself and her entire situation. I understand her hardships but I can not only sympathize with her. If I could ask Mary any question it would be, how many innocent people have you seen die that were not of your own kind? The main occuring theme presented in the narrative is the unrighteous death of indigenous peoples. The puritans constantly had the irrational idea that they themselves were the targeted race but I believe it was the complete opposite. Hundreds by the thousands of natives were slaughtered. Through Mary’s own words I am able to conclude that despite of her lack of knowledge of the Natives she felt in her heart that she was better and to some degree entitled. Her faith is what helped her to stay strong. She was able to keep herself afloat by believing that there was a higher power that was guiding her and protecting her.
By: Maricruz Solano
(Author’s Note: This post is not in reference to a Gretchen Weiner real or other wise. The title is just a Mean Girl’s reference)
Mary Rowlandson’s account of her time spent as a captive of the Algonquian tribe has been labelled as controversial since its release in 1682, and unsurprisingly it remains so. Also unsurprising are the mentions of Disney’s legendary cinematic failure, Pocahontas,as we continue scrutinizing the text and its predecessors on our reading list. The most recent texts that we observe the trend of problematic casting is of the Algonquian tribe and the indigenous peoples of Mexico in “The Emperor of Mexico”.
These works contribute to an unflattering portrayal of indigenous populations in America, but most of these were not distributed with the sole purpose of slandering these people in mind. There are parallels between both works, but they could be read as not meaning to be offensive to their audiences or the very people that they are trying to portray. That is not to say that they should not be considered offensive- of course they are offensive to us, I could barely name a work published in the past fifty years that has aged so well that it is incapable of offending us yet. Calling native people “savages” is bad, we get it. I believe that ultimately, these works are meant to be read not as indictments of the natives (or even as compliments to white people)- but as narratives between good and evil.
The same way that pocahontas is not really a movie about the evils of racism and name calling, but more about the struggles that two people in an interracial/cultural relationship may face. Like Dryden’s play, Pocahontas was Disney’s attempt to bring in fame and prestige- more specifically an oscar. In Mary Rowlandson’s case, the integration of Algonquian language and her favorable descriptions of the women offering to free her, can be read as moments where her maker’s mercy is present in her time of struggle. The unfavorable depictions are (yes, racist) but also are meant to emphasize not only how foreign her situation but cruel and confusing as well. She was kidnapped, even though she could have easily died, but was kept alive and eventually made it out in one piece- through divine providence.
These texts have racial biases, but they do not represent all of the biases against indigenous cultures.
The interactions between Mary Rowlandson and her native Algonquian captors she depicts in Captivity and Restoration doesn’t much contradict the history of European intolerance towards indigenous North Americans. Instead, I think these cross-cultural exchanges, of which Rowlandson was mostly on the receiving end, complicate the English’s relationship with the society and ethics their Puritan ideals hoped to achieve in the new world.
Rowlandson didn’t directly do anything to the native people she and the rest of the Puritans encountered on the eastern coast of North America, like engage in the killings of the genocides. However, she was still complicit in the fall of another people as she came to live in lands her company colonized and removed native people from. One could understands the pain Rowlandson would feel at that moment seeing her colony torn apart limb by limb and to other native towns as captives by a raid of natives. That by itself is flatly painful. However, we cannot neglect the historical context of her sufferings, that come after her people’s own brutalization and interruption of the Native American communities for the establishment of a civilization based around their religious ideals. The bits of Algonquian language she begins to incorporate into her English and the interactions with her native captives does not change the intolerance expressed by the Puritans in attempting to achieve their religious goal and the consequences they caused in the process. However, I would say this complicates the relationship between Rowlandson and other Puritans to their contradictory religion.
In his sermon titled “A Model of Christian Charity” John Winthrop uses the phrase “city upon a hill” (47) to describe his ideal Massachusetts Bay colony. He hoped by instilling Puritan values, including “[j]ustice and [m]ercy” (34), the colony would become the model city for other Christians to follow after. However, Winthrop and the Puritan people did not consider the existence of the society they came across in their arrival to eastern North America and how their non-Puritan beliefs could be just as valuable to follow. In order to establish the city they believe is proper, many Puritan’s ironically do the opposite of what their doctrine preached by displacing and killing natives. The latter group becomes a roadblock between the Puritans and their city upon a hill away from the scrutiny they faced in England. It is through Rowlandson’s narrative that she sees a better impression of Algonquian society than she had expected.
If course the Algonquian slaughtered her people, but they let her live and eventually release her back to her remaining family. While in captivity, Rowlandson does face distress but is still fed from the little food her captors have, since they are eating bear as a desperate measure, and eventually develops a decent relationship with the Algonquian tribe. Of which she chronicles in her narrative but perhaps a bit ambiguous on because she, a respected Puritan woman, would not want to be perceived by her Puritan people as being assimilated into a “savage” non-Puritan society and believe in their tenets, if that really were the case. It’s obvious that Rowlandson has complete faith in the Christian God, since she mentions bible quotes in practically every other paragraph and later reveals how she believes every obstacle she endures during captivity is a trial from God. However, cross-cultural experience Rowlandson was a part of surely should have seen that Algonquian civilization was not completely polar to the Puritan one John Winthrop envisioned and realized the latter didn’t have to be the singular, governing belief system of that region. Although she does not state any fault in her Puritan religion, Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of captivity illustrates how her interactions with native peoples calls into question the wholesomeness of the Puritan religion in comparison to the “savage” ways of the Algonquians.
This weeks reading, “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” undeniably confirms the history of intolerance against indigenous people during the colonization of eastern North America. In my opinion, there is no question here, the fact that the indigenous people of eastern North America were even subject to colonization in the first place is a sign of complete disrespect.
Everything that happened thereafter, like the captivity of Mary Rowlandson was a reaction to the initial atrocities committed against the indigenous people who rightfully own this land. In my opinion, authors like Mrs. Rowlandson, Dryden, and Winthrop design narratives that work in their favor. As previously discussed, there is no way to actually confirm some of the allegations made by these authors and yet we are still considering their stories as full of credible claims. In my opinion, the designer narratives are calculated attempts to allow for plausible deniability which is defined as “the ability of people to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.” (Wikipedia) Mrs. Rowlandson is a PRIME example of someone who capitalizes on her inherent believability because of who she is – no one is going to refute her claims because everyone is looking for a reason to hate the indigenous people. I imagine that the responses that Mrs. Rowlandson was met with was a macro level form of confirmation bias…”we know these people are bad, tell us things to make us believe it more.”
Lying by omission is still lying, Mrs. Rowlandson.
Unfortunately, I see some of these things still happening today and in recent history. Designer narratives are created against people ALL THE TIME – still. And yet nobody seems to be alert to the injustices that occur – plausible deniability. I feel like we are constantly hearing “we had no idea this was happening despite the marches, protests, phone calls, and every other way you have told us.”
About a decade or more after the Spanish colonized South America, Pocahontas died when she went to England. Her relationship lasted for a short amount of time contrary to the social division, mostly as a result of travel. Dryden in his own way knew that a marriage between Cortez and Cydaria would be too mystic and fake for his already stretching story. Arguably Dryden had a limited imagination but I would argue he only used the normal tools of realism to make this story. Even his own English audience would not be totally swept away by this pretty romance, so much would feel out of place. Instead of creating a streamlined story for his readers he gave them a story of more probability.
love stretch forth thy hand
A Wrist of gold bangles
And Brown ankles
I only see you
Reach for me as I reach for you
Through the mist I see a cave
Deep True and blue
Truth we can thrive if we dive
But never surface
For on the surface there is no Hope
Love travels in pairs
Dry Air lacks those pairs
Above this surface
There only dwells despair
For if we were to breath
I would lose the lovely heir
Why they when we
Together, us is trust
Apart, is only lust
For I must have us
By; Carmen Ibarra
Although Dryden did not explicitly bring Cydaria and Cortez together, he allowed them to love each other equally. As Cortez continuously attempts to save Cydaria we realize the love between the two is real. However, by Dryden never allowing the two to become married or even be together, I feel like Dryden is neither portraying to his audience doubts or anxieties about the relationship between the foreign imperialist, but rather showing that if the two were to come together this would only cause a clash between the two worlds, not only religious beliefs but also the way each individual lives their daily lives. In fact, Living in an extremely religious Hispanic household I continuously get told by my parents and family members to “Stick to my own race and religion” I could never agree with this. I do however understand where my parents are coming from, being in a relationship with someone who has different morals and beliefs will most likely cause conflicts within the relationship. To add to that we also notice in the picture shown in class that the audiences main focus was toward the stage and the right side of the audience. Right away we also notice the separation of social classes, the people of a higher social class get seated in the better seats while those of lower class are down at the bottom. To relate this back to what I was saying about Dryden not allowing Cydaria and Cortez to be in a relationship, this shows the conflicts of mixing two completely different worlds.
In John Drydens, The Indian Emperor topics such as love and power are questioned. Although both main characters Cydaria and Cortez are seemingly in “love” their feelings for each other are more than just romantic they actually have a deeper meaning that mirrors the relationship between the Aztecs and the imperialists. When the Spanish took over the Americas although its often times been romanticized it’s obvious that it was over greed and that the Natives were never thought about. It may seem like the love between Cydaria and Cortez is pure but as a reader I had to take a step back and understand the dynamics behind their relationship. In reality the men that came to the Americas were not innocent men looking for love, they were actually looking to overpower and conquer. I feel like the play romanticized the colonization of these people and tried to give off the theme that love can conquer all when in reality this relationship didn’t have anything to do with love.
Throughout the play Cortez is challenged by the relationship between love and power. Although he has power he also feels love for Cydaria and because of that a lot of his decisions are based off her. This can play into the term “White savior complex”, or a white person who goes out of their way to help someone nonwhite for their own gain. Cortez is forced to choose between the love for his country and his need to “take” care of Cydaria. Even at the end their love isn’t what wins and it isn’t clear if power or love was more important to him. It is obvious that Cortez does feel inclined to take care of Cydaria but that also raises the question of is his love for her actually love or if he simply wants to be a savior. The fact that even at the end of the play their love didn’t end in marriage proves that in a sense Cortez chose his nationalism before his love for her.
By: Leena Beddawi
The very existence of a stage comes with the grandeur of a curtain, which acts as the boundary between the audience and the actors, the real and the artificial, the known and the unknown. In John Dryden’s The Indian Emperour, the readers are shown both sides of the curtain which divided the foreign imperialists and Aztec natives, although it is worth noting that Dryden was by no means the right person for this very important job, so there was a very strong bias towards the imperialists.
Having his two characters Cydaria and Cortez fall in love only showed a romanticized version of the very extreme events going on in the world. That being said, there was always a means to his end, and that end was seemingly to propagate and influence history to show one side of the story while failing to actually depict the true horror and destruction going on behind the metaphorical curtain.
Sure, it may have been easier to minimize all the rape, destruction, dehumanization and genocide of the Mexican natives down to a simplistic love story that completely derails that which actually happened within the time period, but that is very sadly what history has very often become. Small romanticized stories about the establishment which fails to tell the stories which real people would face as a consequence of each and every historical event.
I believe it was very much Dryden’s plan to keep his ending ambiguous, just as most of the play was in terms of historical accuracy. It is quite normal to write a romanticized version of history, even if just to make it more appealing to the common person, but it is propaganda which shields future generations from being shown the truth. I’m excited to see what romance blossoms form Obama’s drone strikes or Trump’s everything.
It may have been easier for Dryden to keep the curtain pulled down, to show only the parts the imperialist regime would’ve wanted to show, but I don’t think he took into account the many other stories that were told about the time, which drowned out his falsehoods, and is the reason we are able to argue for his accuracy today. This may be the only thing giving me hope for the future anymore. As long as real stories are told, we can drown out the imperialist cover-up of history’s atrocities.
The theatre has been home to many great stories of love, tragedy, and comedy. It has been around for years and will remain telling diverse stories to future generations. Dryden makes a conscious point to not marry and bring together Cydaria and Cortez in the end. While there is mention of love being shared, it was never brought to full unison as one expects it to be done in the theatre, especially for the time it was shown.
Restoration theatre was an interesting time for theatre as most of the plays, or at least the ones audience enjoyed more were comedies. Audiences did watch tragedies but not as much as they loved a happy ending. Romeo and Juliet, the play that was written by William Shakespeare, was given a different ending during the time of the restoration theatre, a happier ending.
Now knowing the background of how audiences enjoyed watching plays during the restoration theatre time, we can imagine why some audience might have somewhat of an issue with Cydaria and Cortez not marrying each other. However, Dryden might be making a point at why they don’t end together in unison. It shows the reality of people and their actions. While yes, they were in love, they could not be together as there are conflicting actions and thoughts from both characters. Was it meant to show that a foreign imperialist and an Aztec native could never be together? Not necessarily. I think it was more meant to show that these two specific characters could not, as to prove a point that their actions and background in the play led to the outcome. Their origins could have some effect on their unison but that is all up to reader-response criticism of readers and what they feel.
Overall, I felt like Dryden was trying to show people the reality of life and love in the fake reality of Restoration theatre. We can’t blame the restoration theatre because it was an interesting time where people wanted to feel happy and wanted to see luxury, lavishness, royals and overall have a grand time at the theatre. This play is almost everything opposite of what was just described and the romance that was rooted for didn’t end up together.
In John Dryden’s, The Indian Emperour, the relationship between Cortez and Cydaria is always one step ahead of each other. They’re never on the same page because there are still politics between their love and though Cortez loves Cydaria, he’s not able to stop the war until it is too late. Even when the story is about to end, Cortez and Cydaria aren’t on the same page because she gets stabbed. This is definitely Dryden making a statement that the relationship between foreign imperialists and Aztec natives would never be a good one, it would never be reconciled. It is him at the end with death surrounding him. The fact that Cortez wasn’t able to stop the war long before figuring out his conflict between love and honor had a lot to do with the reason why he couldn’t end up having his happy ending which was to save both Cydaria and Moctezuma. However, there was the huge factor of pride that created most of the doubt in the plot of this play. Not expecting any less, Moctezuma was not able to accept that it would be Cortez, his enemy, to be the hero in his life after destroying everything, that his life would solely be dependent on him. He didn’t consider that having a grip of his freedom. I think there was a sense of foreshadowing when Moctezuma was being tortured and the priest asks him if he’s allowed to say where the gold could be found and Moctezuma’s alternative is for him to die.
That is why it doesn’t come as a shocker when Moctezuma kills himself instead of giving thanks to the person who’s responsible for starting it all in the first place. Moctezuma dies holding on to his statement of, “If either Death or Bondage I must choose,/I’ll keep my Freedom, through my life I lose.” I think this line is what determines the relationship between imperialists and Aztec natives because the reality is that it could never be tied to a happy ending. Theatre and politics also have a lot to do with this given that the result of this play was for Cortez to be left with nothing but nonetheless a huge win in his favor. The audience watching this play would probably be even more encouraged to see it as a justification for all the hierarchies and the treatment of those around them.