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Mary Rowlandson's Essay

1532 words - 7 pages

Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative follows the tradition of stories of women from Anglican descents that are seized by Native Americans, a genre that was enormously popular in the US at the turn of the 17th century. A defining work of American literature that presented accounts of Indian barbarity, the gallantry and superiority of white male settlers, and the helplessness of white women in need of protection and rescue. Correspondingly, Madeline Usher, the entombed sister from Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic “The Fall of the House of Usher” is presented as a bawling woman whose identity and voice is unnarratable. Madeline is not only a frightful looking and hysterical woman, but conversely a ...view middle of the document...

It is important to note Rowlandson’s usage of the word "place," this suggests the significance of place or social-status in both recalling and portraying her captivity by the Natives. Rowlandson's employment of the word "place" alludes to her own locus in the social, political, and racial discourse that she inhabits as a Puritan mother held captive. These intersections of “places” advocate that we may read the narrative as both an account of her internment and a narrative about "place”. In the text, captivity functions as a metaphor to divulge the positions Mary inhabits as a gendered and civil subject of the Puritan culture. Most of her travels with the Native Americans "remove" Rowlandson further into the wild and farther from home. As the plot unfolds, the degree to which physical “places” exposes Rowlandson's anxiety of identity and her social standing becomes clear if we analyze her juxtaposition of her former home and the wilderness she has been brought into. For Mary, wilderness is a setting that is "not home" since it has no amenities, lacks the hearth she has been accustomed to, and suffers a lack of food and comfort. The work of her narrative is not merely to create meaning and make sense of her internment; but also to recover her past social standing and identity of who she was when she was "home" as compared to in the wilderness of the “other”. Rowlandson's experience is depicted in terms of an obvious white and non-white binary opposition. Rowlandson's Native American captors are represented as "Heathens," "Savages," and “Barbarians," who attack with a "revengeful Spirit." In contrast, Rowlandson is depicted positively as a "worthy and precious gentlewoman."

As a result, "Captivity” is a vital metaphor for Mary's social situation and it works at numerous different levels to expose her oppression and resistance to epistemic structures which restrict and define women. The historical background of Rowlandson's text in the framework of Puritan ideology that incorporated despotic opinions of Native Americans and women, demonstrates the degree to which gender is an issue in her account of captivity. Women were disheartened in the 17th century from self-expression, speaking, and writing. For Mary, identity is dependent upon her relation to others. She creates a social hierarchy that puts her children, religion, and husband above herself; this proposes that the loss of these relations is correspondent to the loss of identity. Rowlandson’s experience in captivity deprives her of her “self”, which is dependent on her social position as a minister’s wife.

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Fall of the House of Usher," the first four paragraphs are committed to illustrating the dreary appearance of the ancient decaying estate and castle owned by the Usher family. The house is moldy and has a deep and extensive fissure that threatens the integrity of the structure and the adjoining moat appears to be stagnant. Instantly, Poe entraps the...

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