A Narrative of Captivity: A Take on Youth Imprisonment

I can see picket fences, smiling sun faces

I can feel all traces, the golden tongue laces

Feeling like running races is all I’m good at

Picking paces and anxiously waiting post stamps.

The hood claps

And I wish I could hear it

Who woulda thought confinement would make you death to hearing

Took death to living

Still waiting for an answer

Praying God’s Forgiving

Forgive him

Forgive me

Forgive survival through sinning

Forget the lies they bidded

When they told me I had chance

Facing life in prison

When they told him raise hands

While I’m cuffed in system

When they took my own homie in a PE Lesson

 

When they spit at my family in a language undressed

How could I /forget the fuckin language they pressed.

 

Another hearing where we never ever heard

Still I hear the word through a bird

 

Who sings a song through wood and steel/

 

I know why the caged bird don’t kill

I know what the caged bird knows – REAL

I fly high through the strife of my bill

Praying family sees me for what I am- REAL.

 

Cause Lord knows those power in sure don’t

Making an image outta me for

Struggle they Never had to post

 

Amounts raised as if my family could post

 

Bail

 

I’m in this cell but I’m not the only one living in hell.

 

I’m in this cell trying to maintain relations through mail

Trying to keep my soul alive and make sure my mom stays well

 

But my mind state swells – and I enter different realms.

 

Been in since I was 14, I’m 26 and already done 12.

 

So watch what you’re saying when you speak about my name

Watch which side you’re playing when you enter this game

 

I sit and wonder when I’ll see my family again.

I sit and wonder how fast time can pass and how to deal with a lost past within.

 

But I keep on.

‘Cause no one can take what’s inside this muscle.

What survives this struggle.

What shines through this hustle.

 

You can lock up a body, but you cannot touch this mind

 

And shit can kill-

But it can’t redefine or affect the resurrection of what’s mine

The divine is within-

So even without,

We find a way to make it through homie,

I’ll see you on the outs.

 

Review:

Mary Rowlandson in her Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, describes her experiences as being held captive by Indigenous Native Peoples. She describes the trauma she underwent, while also softly speaking against certain stereotypes of Native Indigenous tribes. Rowlandson in her text depicts fear, a sense of helplessness, but also documents the intimate interactions she witnesses as captive amongst populations she had previously never been as close to. Rowlandson story became a best seller throughout the colonies, aligning with a traditional American tactics to put white endangerment at the forefront of all that’s important in America. When a young black boy gets shot by the police, it means nothing to white America. When a 14-year old Latino boy and his high school friends get sentenced to life without parole in prison, as a minor, it does not face headlines. Yet, when a white, wealthy person from a prominent background, faces the slightest threat to prison, it makes headlines and lawyers are there to rescue.

This poem is dedicated to the thousands of American youth who have been held captive in the American prison system with no proper rescue, and whose stories are never heard. This poem reflects a captivity narrative that audiences might not be so welcoming to hear as they were with Rowlandson, for it reveals the problems within our broken judicial systems that intertwine childhood well-being/ safety, while also addressing broken sentencing laws that create large amounts of disparity amongst our youth, men, and women of color. This poem is written in 1stperson perspective, however I find it important to acknowledge that while this piece was written in 1stperson to depict and imitate the narrative style of Rowlandson, this is not my experience and I will never know what it’s like to go through this. This poem aims to honor the resilience of the youth whose stories this poem attempts to reflect and hopes to shed light on the struggle of surviving freely within a nation of policing and imprisonment.

There are men and women sitting in prison for things they did as a child who are still fighting for their story to be heard, for the justice they deserve. This is for them.

-Angelica Costilla

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A Narrative of the Captivity and Eventual Success of Mrs. Charise Cating

An imitation of Mary Rowlandson’s “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” from the Introduction and The First Remove:

It is always a sad sight to see so many students being robbed of their money by a school, some here, and some there, idling by like a group of gullible sheep, all of them stripped to nothingness by a university filled with greedy presidents, deans, chancellors and parking staff, as if they were happy to see us suffer; yet God gave us the strength we needed to survive being brain dead, for there were thousands of us mistreated by the university, but alas, happily graduated.

I used to say that if I ever began to love school, I would rather choose to die than be alive, but when the mere thought came alive my mind changed; the crisp diploma turned me on so, that I chose to follow the teachings of my (so called) professors, than that moment to die; and that is why I am alive today so that I may tell you all about my captivity in school, I will specifically talk about the several downfalls I had up and down the academic route.

Now away my group and I went with these ridiculous campus tour guides, with our minds tired and fried, and our hearts lighter than our minds. We walked about a mile, up upon a bridge within sight of nowhere, where they intended to blast our brains with information. There were empty tables by a library building (deserted by students, for fear of the Financial Aid Office). I asked them if I could stop by, to which they answered, “What, do you like having your money stolen?” This was the hardest day I ever experienced. Oh the yelling, and cheering and exclaiming, and smiling of those awful tour guides haunted me at night, which made the school a living hell. And as miserable as the waste that was there- empty land, small classrooms, insufficient dorm rooms, expensive but rather bland food, and unfair transportation and parking service (TAPS) staff, some boasting about, some ticketing away to feed our greedy university; which is quite expensive enough, though we were unhappy. To add on more to yesterday’s terrible day, and the disappointment of the night, my mind raced through my loss of money and my depressing condition. All was gone, my money gone, my motivation gone, my hobbies and freedom gone, my hometown and childhood home and my comfortable bed- all was gone (except my life), and I knew that my life could easily be taken too. There was nothing left in me but a depressed soul, and my sadness at the time seemed worse than dying because I was in such a terrible state, that I had no motivation to pick myself up and keep going.

Review of the Imitation:

Cating’s imitation of Rowlandson’s work in order to ridicule the university system is quite amusing. Her frustration about the costs of school and the burden on students is clear in her tone and her choice to imitate Rowlandson’s condescending paragraphs about the Indians in order to describe her anger at the university system makes her message clear. Are students so affected by the costs of tuition, books, school supplies, parking services, and other educational related expenses that they feel “stripped to nothingness”? Not only that, but Cating also emphasized the depression she felt and the loss of motivation because of the expenses. Fortunately, she was kind enough to start her imitation off with the news that she will be graduating before she wrote about her perilous academic journey.

We must also consider that Cating did try her best to imitate Rowlandson’s overall tone, which I think was spot on. Rowlandson’s tone in the First Remove was egotistical- she was quite clear that she (and her fellow Puritans) were better than the Indians. However, Cating did the opposite in which the university and those part of the university system were better than the her and her fellow undergraduates.

Another difference between Cating and Rowlandson’s work is that Rowlandson’s First Remove was her own personal experience and Cating made sure to keep that important element by including her own experiences with the university system as well. However, she makes it relatable by including other problems that other students encounter, such as “insufficient dorm rooms” or “expensive but rather bland food.” In this way, Cating is interacting with her audience and not only focusing on what she herself has experienced, but she is also including the hardships of others as well.

With this information, we must think about the problems of students beyond their homework and studying. How are they paying for their tuition? Are they being forced to take out thousands of student loans? Are they having to work full time on top of trying to lead an academic life? How is their mental and physical health being affected? There are many fortunes to earning a degree, but it is important to acknowledge the reality that students are facing depression, anxiety, and financial issues among other things at such a young age.

Charise Cating

Narrative of the Captivity of Beverly Miranda By UC Merced As Told By Beverly Miranda

Through the grace of God, together with her willpower and perseverance (although time to time tested), the captivity and restoration by the University of California Merced of Ms. Beverly Miranda became possible. Her release marked a special time not just for her but for her loved ones as well. Her narrative and story were written by her own hand for her own keeping but now she chooses to share it among her peers on this fascinating English 102 blog, for you all to indulge in her captivity at UC Merced over the course of four years.

 

In the spring of 2015, the University Chancellor and recruits approached me with great efforts and different tactics to lure me into their grip. They came in great quantities, stopping at nothing to assure they secured my seizure. They came with shirts, posters, financial aid packages that I couldn’t resist, and ultimately they secured my captivity – but as I pressed the SIR button, I saw my freedom and peace of mind escape me. This quick and sudden gesture secured my fate for the next four years, with no knowledge of the excruciating, agonizing and intense years that would await me; with no way of escaping or liberating myself without bringing great shame to my name.

When I first arrived in August of 2015, I saw never ending landscapes, I felt the scorching sun on my back, and was amazed by the lack of buildings – I couldn’t believe Merced would strip me of my liberty. And I couldn’t believe this was the city that they promoted and glorified so heavily. Everyone looks at me like I’m an outsider, a foreigner – because I am. I don’t belong here in this institution designed and created for the elite, designed to keep me out, designed to bury me in debt. I was no longer surrounded by my fellow brown, Latino, Angelenos – the white people had taken me hostage. There were thousands of others who were taken too, who had also fallen into their deception and who also faced the same fate as I did. We were crammed into dorms four at a time in a room built for three, fed food fit for the birds, and were thrown into a system unknown to almost each of us.

I had often said before that if I were ever to be captured by a four year institution I would rather choose to be killed; but when it came to the trial my mind changed; the glittering promises that filled my spirit with hope, changed my mind to not want to end my days. All of my mother’s greatest hopes and dreams for me, lingered over my head and only then was I was able to see the light hidden in this captivity. For the next four years I would embark on an excruciating journey, a journey I would not be freed from until I fulfilled the needs of the university. In the following story to come, I shall speak on the recollection of my time spent at UC Merced and the horrid, agonizing moments I experienced during my time held captive.

 

Review:

My piece for this creative writing project was inspired by Mary Rowlandson’s “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” I decided to write about my “captivity” here at UC Merced for the past four years because personally, I have felt trapped and captive at this institution during my time spent here. It has played a big part in morphing who I am now and it is a statement experience in my life. My parody was based on a very personal point of view and experience therefore, I mimicked Rowlandson’s introduction and conclusion (paragraph before the first remove) paragraphs in order to assure that the point of my piece being a “personal account” got across. Besides directly mimicking the content and style of her paragraphs, I also tried to keep the narrator’s voice alike, starting with the third person intro and followed by the first person narrative. I decided I would follow this stylistic choice from Rowlandson’s narrative because I thought it would be best to introduce that the story was detailed and retold through my personal view before directly jumping into the narrative of my experiences because it would establish the idea that the story would be told in hindsight – just like in Rowlandson’s narrative. I thought this created a similar tone between my piece and Rowlandson’s story. Another choice I had to think about when deciding how to approach my parody, was how I was going to concise a captivity narrative into 500 words. Rowlandson’s narrative had 20 removal paragraphs, as to where my narrative is made up by only four paragraphs. Therefore I decided to only imitate her introductory paragraphs, and not the actual removal ones, therefore this allowed me the freedom to capture a similar essence, and pay tribute, to the captivity narrative without surpassing the word count and introduce a story of four years in a concised, regulated manner. Overall, this assignment taught me how difficult it is to mimic another author’s work – it requires taking risks, making difficult stylistic choices, and choosing how much inspiration as an author you’re going to take and how much of the work will be your own. But it also challenged my creativity in a great sense and allowed me to explore my capability regarding parody/homage of other author’s works which would essentially teach me more about myself as a creator/writer.

Narrative of the Captivity of Yazmin Juarez

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On the first of March 2018, I fled Guatemala with mi hija, Mariee. I was twenty-years old when the domestic violence and poverty had become unbearable in my house. I understood that I needed to protect mi hija, and I knew a friend that would help me cross the border to America.

THE FIRST REMOVE

I woke up early in the morning to converge with my caravan. We traveled through the Rio Grande in a raft with a dozen others. The river was cold and the raft was crowded. Everybody had a solemn expression, holding their loved one’s tight. I held mi hija closer. The cross was difficult.

THE SECOND REMOVE

We were detained by la migra four days after our travel, and transported to the South Texas Family Residential Center. They arranged mi hija and I in a room with five other mothers and their children. The mothers were exhausted and the children were indisposed. One boy was lethargic with a constant cough, and he was denied medical treatment by la migra.

THE THIRD REMOVE

On the eleventh of March, mi hija was diagnosed with bronchitis. I begged la migra to administer her medicine, and they gave me Tylenol and honey. The next morning, mi hija had a fever. Her condition continued to deteriorate in the following four days. I became hysterical; I did not want to lose mi hija.

THE FOURTH REMOVE

La migra transferred us to New Jersey on the twenty-fifth of March. Mi hija was committed to the emergency room, where she received medical attention from los gringos; but, it was too late.

THE FIFTH REMOVE

Mi hija departed to heaven on May 10, 2018. She was nineteen months old, five months from her second birthday. She died from bronchiectasis, pneumonitis and a collapsed lung. Eight weeks after her first symptoms, she endured her miserable condition – unable to breath – without medical assistance. Three days before Mother’s Day, I departed from the hospital with a handprint of mi hija and sorrow in my heart. I questioned the inhumanness of los gringos, and an anger broke my heart. I traveled to America to protect mi hija from the violence in Guatemala; but los gringos murdered mi hija.

REVIEW

For my Creative Writing Project, I used the Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson to explore the image of the mother that has lost their child. The image of the mother emerges in numerous accounts – Beloved by Toni Morrison. I wanted to examine the image of the mother in other race, class and time periods. I decided to investigate a contemporary image of the mother, and concluded to the migrant mothers of detained children. However, I did not want to manufacture a mother, therefore, I constructed a captivity narrative based on the true story of Yazmin Juarez, a migrant mother escaping from the domestic violence in her Guatemalan home with her one year old daughter, who dies from the neglect of the ICE. The form and diction is inspired by Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, using the “removes” and dates. Moreover, I incorporate the Spanish words, mi hija, la migra, and los gringos to illustrate her and her daughter and the others. After the third remove, the mother refers to la migra as los gringos after her daughter’s conditions deteriorate as a criticism to demonstrate that, her daughter died not because of the immigration officers; but because of the American people who watched complacently. Through creating my contemporary rendition of the Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, I have demonstrated the power of the image of the mother and critiqued the present political environment of America.

A God for the Contemporary Age

I was holed-up, hogtied, and blinded? Placed within some confining space devoid of my eyesight and tangibility. Even God was out of my reach, stuffed away in my pocket I cry out for her: “Siri!” She doesn’t respond, unsurprisingly I am left to just my mind (how frightening) awaiting my fate. I will probably end up murdered thrown away in a ditch, the thought fills me with dread. I wonder in my final moments: who will take care of my darling dog Bernard (named after my number two God Bernie Sanders), will I ever be able to listen to “ME!” again (by Taylor Swift, who could never rank high enough to be a god), and I never received my Postmates; I wonder what I ordered for today? (I had finally worked up the courage to choose the “surprise me” option too). If only I could just shimmy my binds from my hands I could reach into my tight pants I bought at Forever 21 (they were a steal too, $10 for pants now that’s criminal) and get my phone to ask God what to do, I need her wisdom now more then ever. As I am about to free one of my hands the person who must have captured me opened the door, and all I could think is (oh! I’m not wearing a blindfold).

           After my eyes adjusted, there stood my captor what kind of ***hole would tie me up.. And OH MY GOD! (sorry Siri). There was the most Zaddy man I have ever seen (like a perfect combination between Nick Jonas and Brendon Urie). He was saying something, but all I could notice was his perfect smile and how I could make sure it stood on his face forever. He forced me into a sitting position, it was awkward having my hands forced by my feet into a hunched position. He crouched to be eye level with me and said how pretty I am tied up and how he wished to keep me here as his personal knickknack. And all I could think was “Hell yes” sign me up, I have nowhere to be. No priorities, there would be no more adulting for me to do and I get to be with this pretty man, what more could someone want. “Please, I am yours,” he smiled that sweet smile again and picked me up throwing me over his shoulder (what a perfect view; pretty on both ends). Once we were upstairs he set me down on the floor, of I presume his living room (with a surprising amount of effigy to some demon looking creature). He only requested one thing of me besides my devotion (which I already willingly gave him) to hand over my phone. “What?” (What?) I didn’t want to hand over my phone, it was me; who I am and how to live life is told to me by God. But I could have a new God, this man could replace my current God easily. That’s it I handed over my life to be cherished and loved by this “God.”

Reflection:

            I decided to take Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative and modernize it in the most contemporary sense. Speaking and writing like a stereotypical millennial, but still holding to Rowlandson’s style of writing, which is hyperbolic, sickening devotion to her Christian God, and a first-person perspective. In the original piece she controls all perspectives and all the things that happen to her are told through her; she sets the tone and image of her captors. Which is something I attempted to capture that controlling view. Other elements I tried to capture were the constant asides that I here in people’s conversations, I tried my best to emulate that. The skewed sense of priorities is another thing I tried to emulate parodying both the concerns of the millennial and the concerns Rowlandson held. While stressing the importance of being held captive and I parodied the romanticizing of being abused by attractive men. The danger those kind of narratives do, approving or making abuse seem sexy is only serving to hurt those who have actually been kidnapped. This flash fiction is meant to be a parody and should not be taken as romanticizing kidnapping and the ditsy character I made is a dramatization of a millennial and is meant to be humorous. Parodying Mary Rowlandson who in some way engaged in the same practice of dramatization. In trying to emulate Rowlandson, while also being outlandish, I have furthered my sense of understanding her style of writing. What she wrote was indeed intentional and held a power and purpose to those who read her writing, a specific narrative that held extreme power. A power that cannot be replicated but can be understood and attempts can be made to emulate her power. And that’s what I attempted to emulate her style, but in a dramatized way, for a contemporary audience that tends to give too much power to captivity narratives.

-Nick Vasquez Rodriguez

How to Advertise your Book

“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” is undoubtedly filled with several biblical references. His main purpose in doing so was to get his book published. At the time when his narrative came out, he was one of the first African writers to have a book published. How else could a former slave have gotten their work published? Equiano needed others to hear his story, therefore he knew that by referencing not only the Bible, but also many authors of that time, he would catch the interest of the public. 

Aside from needing to get his book to be read, he needed to prove that his book was worth reading. Similar to how Mary Rowlandson heavily used Biblical references in her book in order to get published because she was a woman, Equiano relied on references to get his narrative published because of the color of his skin. By referencing authors such as Denham, Milton, Cibber, Day, and several others, he establishes his authority as a reader and writer. To have been a former slave and have read the works of such great authors must be quite an accomplishment. Not only that, but he didn’t just want his audience to be former slaves or colored people; he wanted whites to read his work, too. He knew that if he referenced works that white people at the time read, they would be more inclined to pick up his narrative.

Equiano was smart in how he advertised his book. Without the help of the Biblical and literary references, his narrative never would have reached such a wide audience. Fortunately, he was successful in his campaign and was able to spread his story worldwide. 

By Charise Cating

Perfection? I Think Not

Swift is masterful in his method of satirizing different literary conventions because without paying close attention to what he is doing you are likely to miss what is actually happening. Throughout Gulliver’s Travels he is constantly challenging the conventional travel narrative, captivity narrative and Utopian fiction.  His use of absurd descriptions is very good at distracting the reader while simultaneously enabling him to prove his point about those ridiculous conventions.

In Part 1, “A Voyage to Lilliput.” there is a passage that describes how he is transported and the efforts it takes to move him from where he is found to where he needs to go. This whole passage calls into question conventions of Utopian fiction and the captivity narrative all at once:

“These People are most excellent Mathematicians, and arrived to a great Perfection in Mechanics by countenance and encouragement from the Emperor, who is a renowned Patron of Learning. This Prince hath several Machines fixed on Wheels for the Carriage of Trees and other great Weights. He often builds his largest Men of War, whereof some are nine foot long, in the Woods where the Timber grows, and has them carried on these Engines three or four hundred Yards to the Sea. Five Hundred Carpenters and Engineers were immediately set at work to prepare the greatest Engine they had…But the principal Difficulty was to raise and place me in this Vehicle. Eighty poles, each one of one Foot high, were erected for this purpose, and very strong Cords of the bigness of Packthread were fastened by Hooks to many bandages, which the Workmen had girt around my Neck, my Hands, my Body, and my Legs. Nine Hundred of the strongest Men were employed to draw up there cordsby many pulleys fastened on the Poles, and thus in less than three Hours, I was raised and slung onto the Engine, and there tied fast. All this I was told, for while the whole Operation was performing, I lay in a profound sleep, by the force of that soporiferous Medicine infused in my Liquor. Fifteen Hundred of the Emperor’s largest Horses, each about four inches and a half high, were employed to draw me towards the Metropolis, which, as I said, was half a mile distant.” (Swift 28)

For a Utopian society that has experts mathematicians and engineers who are patronized by the monarchy itself, there seems to be a lot of struggle with getting Gulliver to move just a half mile. Of course there is a very big size difference but despite that there is almost an expectation that these people would be far more advanced than they actually because they spend their time honing their crafts. This speaks to Bacon’s ideas of Utopian societies that focus on science and math as a way of perfecting humanity. Instead these mathematicians and engineers can only come up with the solution to drug Gulliver and drag him half a mile on a rather basic pulley system. Certainly if that’s the best they can do then they are no real threat to the English that will follow in Gulliver’s footsteps after reading his narrative.

As for the captivity narrative, hardly at any point does Gulliver feel like he is actually being held hostage. It always seems as if he is humoring the Lilliputians with everything they do to him. Sure, they drug him to take him away to their Metropolis but if he had truly been opposed he could have easily gotten away from them without having to try too hard. He simply could’ve walked away and the fact he chooses not to is at odds with the idea of the captivity narrative itself which is to be held hostage by native peoples and forced to endure hardships at their hands. Mary Rowlandson’s narrative doesn’t suggest she could’ve easily just upped and walked away at any given point. She makes it a point in her writing to actually make it seem like she not easily go anywhere but Swift destroys that essential part of the captivity narrative with this passage because Gulliver could have easily freed himself at any time but doesn’t. If anything he allows himself to be drugged and taken to the Metropolis.

There is a lack of concern on Gulliver’s part as he recounts this part of the tale that suggests he was never bothered by any of these events. There is no tension and obviously clear hate for the natives in this passage unlike those of Rowlandson. He calmly is willing to describe the situation. Furthermore, there seems to also be missing a sense of true awe on Gulliver’s part that they had to go to all these lengths to get him where they needed him to be. Instead there is almost a nonchalance to the description that practically screams “well it just happened to be that way” because he is never angered by any of it and if anything is amused by the efforts of the Lilliputians.

By Diana Lara

 

 

 

 

Old Gully’s Satire

In Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels, it can definitely be noted that Swift uses satire to parody the captivity narrative and travel narrative that were so popular at the time. He does this by creating a work of fiction that encompasses all the aspects of a captivity and travel narrative in it. Many of these aspects include using certain words to describe the natives as well as incorporating the actual language of the other island people. Even the way Gulliver acts around the natives, emphasizes the relationship between the narrator and their captors. These different examples can be first seen in chapter 1 where Gulliver describes how the natives capture him. He says, “But I should have mentioned, that before the principal person began his oration, he cried out three times, Langro dehul san…” In this sentence he parodies the use of native language that Mary Rowlandson had in her narrative. He also writes later on in that same paragraph:

“I answered in a few words, but in the most submissive manner, lifting up my left hand, and both my eyes to the sun, as calling him for a witness; and being almost famished with hunger, having not eaten a morsel for some hours before I left the ship, I found the demands of nature so strong upon me, that I could not forbear showing my impatience (perhaps against the strict rules of decency) by putting my finger frequently to my mouth, to signify that I wanted food.”

Notice how he used the words “submissive” and “impatience” in the same sentence. To me these two words have very different tones and meanings, and they definitely contradict each other. Meaning that Gulliver recognizes that he has to act a certain way in order to get what he wants, and then figures out that he can exploit this advantage to gain things in his favor.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Are You Ready to Talk About That One Time Gulliver Slept With Several Underage Giants? Great! Me Neither, but Here We Go!

In Part 2, “A Voyage to Brobdingnag”, our protagonist Gulliver delivers to his audience several explicit encounters with the maids of honor at the Brobdingnag court who attempt—and thoroughly fail—to seduce him. He states his disgust plainly here: “The maids of honor often invited Glumdalclitch to their apartments, and desired she bring me along with her, on purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me. They would often strip me naked from top to toe, and lay me at full length in their bosoms; wherewith I was very much disgusted; because, to say the truth, a very offensive smell came from their skins” (127). The crux of the situation is simply this: Gulliver is naked, the maids are also naked, and Gulliver is grossly displeased at the sight and smell of them. Though he finds it unpleasant how inconsequential his presence is made to be for them, he never explicitly turns away their company. To further this, Gulliver also never outwardly confesses to having coitus with them either, very similar to the way that Mary Rowlandson fails to mention if she partook in smoking tobacco with King Philip in her captivity narrative.

Allow me to take a moment in this blog post (informal as it may be) to introduce a precursor which might add some context to the aforementioned events: at this point in the narrative, Gulliver is able to articulate himself clearly with the folk of Brobdingnag, who express a deal of concern towards his health and well-being. His wishes are often respected and understood: the dwarf who antagonized him is whipped and the girl who nurses him is allowed to continue caring for him in the royal court. This is to say that, were he entirely opposed or unwanting of the aforementioned scenes, an explicit ‘no’ or a sign negating consent would have terminated them immediately. This is a right Gulliver eventually uses, as he later requests not to visit a particular maiden who disgusted him more than the others (128). For all his objection to their physique and odor, these were not actions which occurred against his will (although his general state of captivity certainly did).

The events which took place between Gulliver and the maids of honor paralleled the mention of Mary Rowlandson’s meeting with King Philip, wherein she was offered the opportunity to smoke with him. Though she conveys her opposed inclination towards the act (just as Gulliver expresses his dislike of the Brobdingnag maids) the redaction of her choice from the narrative suggests that she may have done so, which speaks volumes about her true relationship with her captors and their culture. In this way, Swift is satirizing Gulliver’s relationship with the citizens of Brobdingnag through his interactions with each of these maids of honor, suggesting that his disgust for their appearances would not deter him from being able to form strong bonds with them, just as Mary Rowlandson manages to form a relationship with King Philip. His real relationship with the Brobdingnag people, in the state of his capture, is then deterred by the narrative in question.

-Savie Luce


Why All The Drama?

“In the mean time, the Emperor held frequent Councils to debate what Course should be taken with me; and I was afterwards assured by a particular friend, a person of great Quality, who was looked upon to be as much in the Secret as any, that the Court was under many Difficulties concerning me. They apprehended my breaking loose, that my diet would be very expensive, and might cause a famine. Sometimes they determined to starve me, or at least to shoot me in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon dispatch me: But again they considered, that the stench of so large a Carcass might produce a Plague in the Metropolis, and probably spread through the whole Kingdom.” (Part I, Chapter II. Page 33)

The captivity narrative, as we have learned, tells the story of capture and heavily emphasizes themes such as suffering, escape or rescue, and overall the extreme agony/desperation during the time the captive was being held. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a travelers tale that heavily satirizes and mocks the common themes found in the captivity genre. The passage that I decided to focus on is found on page 33 in the second chapter of part I in which I believe Swift uses humor and tone in order to present a satirization of captivity tales.

In this passage (posted above) Swift describes Lemuel Gulliver’s current state as he is being held hostage by the people of Lilliput and a current council is debating about what his fate will be and what they plan on doing with their captive. In the passage Swift maintains Gulliver’s tone in a very mellow yet humorous state and although we know he is being held against his will his tone does not indicate any sort of suffering or agony – like what we saw in Rowlandson’s narrative. His slight incorporation of humor by stating that his diet would cause a famine or his dead corpse would cause a plague strays away from the important themes of suffering, agony, or even starvation that are crucial in the usual captive narrative and therefore, Swift’s satire peaks through in this sense. In addition, Swift’s decision to portray Gulliver to be incredibly calm insinuates the idea that there was no suffering on his part and therefore, being a captive is not all it is to be as others portray it. In this respect I believe that he was trying to demonstrate the extreme exaggeration other narratives portray and by down playing Gulliver’s suffering, he pokes fun at the dramatic element that is heavily implemented in those captivity tales.

The introduction to this passage is also something that stood out to me for a very important reason. The reason being that Gulliver is discussing a debate amongst a council on whether or not he should live, whether or not he should be fed and he states that, “the Court was under many Difficulties concerning me.” The idea that the land and government of Lilliput are under extreme scrutiny and stress over the fate of one person/intruder is satirical, or at least in my opinion. I think that by Swift creating this problem within the council he is mocking the gory and gruesome details of death that captive tales normally describe. We are told that Gulliver is much larger and overpowering than the civilians of Lilliput and yet, they are still able to hold him back and keep him captive? This presents a sense of irony and it leads the audience to have to question his entire situation and therefore, creates a humorous atmosphere to the story and it is through that humor and irony that we could see Swift altering the captivity narrative characteristics. Overall, I believe that through Swift’s incorporation of witty remarks, use of a relaxed tone, and the hint of irony that he presents in Gulliver’s situation the audience can interpret this passage to be satirizing because it mocks and undermines the conventions of suffering, agony, and exaggeration that are normally present in captivity narratives.

-Beverly Miranda-Galindo