Mary Rowlanrson’s Puritan beliefs help her endure her captivity, which lasts eleven weeks, at the hands of the Wampanoag Indians. These beliefs, are often referred as tenets, reflect the fanatical belief of the Puritans that they are god’s chosen people. Rowlandson watches firsthand the horror of the Indian attack on her town and the killing that takes place on both sides during which she receives a bullet wound in her side (Rowlandson 299). She is taken captive and decides that god will see her through these hard times and test her faith in him (Rowlandson 299). During her captivity she mentally endures separation from her remaining family and friends, the death of her child at the hands of the Wampanoag Indians, and the degradation of her treatment as a slave by the people she considers to be children of the devil (Rowlandson 299,303,305,313) . Her belief in the Puritan way of life helps her maintain her sanity during these trying times. Two tenets in particular are evident during these long hard weeks. They are typology and Satan on earth (Miller 6). Throughout her diary she refers to these tenets among others as she describes her trials in captivity at the hands of the Indians.
Typology refers to the Puritans taking recent events and relating them to events that took place in early scripture (Miller 6). The Puritans believe that they are god’s newly chosen people and the events in their lives prove this by taking them down the same road as the Israelites in early scripture (Miller 6). Typology appears during the Indian attack in the beginning of the diary. One person out of the thirty seven people in one house escapes and Mary exclaims, ?And I only am escaped alone to tell the News? (Job 1.15, Rowlandson 300) which refers to the
suffering a survivor endures from an attack. She assumes the survivor is despondent knowing that he alone survives the Indian attack. During the third remove she finds herself among a large number of Indians which causes her to make another statement that was a comparison made between her and David (Rowlandson 302). She appears to find it extremely difficult to imagine the Indians as civilized and living in communities of their own (Rowlandson 308). It seems easier for her mind to accept that they are savages and band together only at the devil’s will to attack god’s chosen people (Rowlandson 309). In the fifth remove she states ? Oh that my people had hearkened to me, and Israel had walked in my ways, I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries? (Psalm 81.13-14, Rowlandson 306). Throughout the diary she appears to believe that the primary reason for the Indians success is to punish the Puritans for not living the life god wants them to live and that god is apparently testing her belief by showing her the similarities of the Israelites plights and her own . Once she becomes aware of these similarities, the trials or ordeals become easier for her to deal with because she is familiar with the testament and believes that in the end she will triumph, as the chosen people triumphed, if she places herself in god’s hands (Rowlandson 304).
Satan on earth refers to the Puritan belief that they are god’s chosen people in a new Promised Land and that the Indians are the children of the devil put there to test the Puritan’s faith (Miller 6). Mary Rowlandson’s perception is the Puritans are living a devout life while the devil uses the Indians to tempt and corrupt the Puritans (Miller 6). In the initial attack she
refers to them as bloody heathens alluding to their apparent bloodlust as they attack and plunder her town (Rowlandson299). The Indians reinforce the fact that they are, in her eyes, the devil on earth by their ritual on the first night celebrating their victory over the Puritans (Rowlandson 300). Mary convinces herself that the Indians transform the woods into a hellish
den in which they display their true evil nature through their revelry (Rowlandson 300). Another reference is made to their being the children of Satan as she describes the food that they eat (Rowlandson 306). To her Puritan mind, it is the Puritans way or you are in lot with the devil. When she falls off the horse with her sick child in her arms and the Indians laugh, she views them as inhumane creatures who find amusement in her misfortune (Rowlandson 301). In her mind she must consistently keep her head about her because she is in the midst of the devil’s children and if she is weak, then she will fail god’s test of her faith (Rowlandson 303).
Mary Rowlandson’s belief in the tenets helps her to survive the tests of faith that god chooses for her over the eleven weeks. Throughout her diary she makes no positive references to the Indians even when they display acts of kindness, yet is quick to point out the cruelties or injustices they commit upon her or the Puritans. In conclusion, the Puritan tenets although extreme are proven successful to Rowlandson, giving her a foundation upon which to build her hopes of eventual freedom in an otherwise hopeless situation. Her diary expounds these beliefs by constantly referring to them throughout the book. Her diary also reflects the Puritan belief of tolerance, of which there is none, that is prevalent for that time period (Miller 6). Mary Rowlandson’s experience at the hand of the Wampanoag Indians serves as a reminder to all Puritans that faith and obedience to god is the recipe for salvation (Miller 6).
Miller, James E. Jr.. ?Beginnings to the Civil War?. Heritage of American
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Rowlandson, Mary. ?A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary
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Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1998. 297-329.
The Holy Bible, King James Version.