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.