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"The Unredeemed Captive" By John Demos.

1353 words - 5 pages

In The Unredeemed Captive, John Demos illustrates the complexities of the relationships among the puritan settlers of New England, the Roman-Catholic French of New France (currently parts of Canada), and the Native Americans both nations forcefully relocated. He also shows how undercurrents of racism and moral superiority often trouble these relationships, especially with the Native Americans. With the narrative style of a novel rather than a historical record, Demos tells the story of Eunice Williams, a captured daughter of honored minister John Williams, to turn the worlds of master and captive upside down. This narrative is far different than the autobiographical narratives written by former prisoners. It provides an honest look into the captivity of prisoners by Native Americans, a story of prejudice in the usual prisoner's narrative.Demos stresses that once captured, the victim can take one of two paths. He or she will either be valued as a pay off, or assimilated into Native or French Culture. Most adults, especially Reverend Williams, saw captivity as a spiritual journey; a punishment for sins and the destiny assigned them by God. It was their duty to endure, and by doing so they pleased Him. As Cotton Mather intimated to Reverend Williams in correspondence, "You are carried into the land of the Canadians for your good."1 Children, on the other hand were more often left in the care of the Natives. They would be "adopted" by a tribe family and, after a cleansing ceremony to rid them of European blood, raised as that family's as if the child were their own. Eunice was only six when taken from her home of Deerfield and forced into this foreign society. She was forbidden to speak English and trained to use the Mohawk language. However, still greater changes had become upon this young lady. No longer was Eunice subject to the rigorous disciplines of her puritan lifestyle. The Iroquoians "do not so much as know what it is to correct them,"2 remarked traveler Pierre Charlevoix. The children "do everything that they like...under the pretext that they are not yet at the age of reason."3 Iroquois children are therefore treated much like adults, only with less responsibility. It was up to the parents to lead by example, only asking or suggesting a child perform a task, never demanding obedience. Puritans never would think of such a sophisticated or gentle culture, definitely not from these "savages". However once started down this path the converted could never be persuaded to return. Eunice, or now known as Marguerite, died at the age of 89 still cherishing her Native American family.Puritan conceptions of Native life never reflected the reality of their quite developed culture. For example, Europeans considered native men lazy and irresponsible because they allowed women to do all the farming and harvesting, a traditionally male role in European society. The men, however, earned their peaceful days during harvest because they would hunt all winter,...

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