Mrs. Mary RowlandsonThe Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson is a personal account, written by Mary Rowlandson in 1682, of what life in captivity was like. Her narrative of her captivity by Indians became popular in both American and English literature. Mary Rowlandson basically lost everything by an Indian attack on her town Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1675; where she is then held prisoner and spends eleven weeks with the Wampanoag Indians as they travel to safety. What made this piece so popular in both England and America was not only because of the great narrative skill used be Mary Rowlandson, but also the intriguing personality shown by the complicated character who has a struggle in recognizing her identity. The reoccurring idea of food and the word remove, used as metaphors throughout the narrative, could be observed to lead to Mary Rowlandson’s repression of anger, depression, and realization of change throughout her journey and more so at the end of it.
The idea of food is constantly used throughout the Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, because it was the only essential need that she was concerned everyday to survive. Before the captivity, Mary Rowlandson was an innocent housewife that knew nothing of what suffering was like. She has always had plenty of food, shelter, and clothing. As a reader, you can see how her views towards the Indian’s choice of food gradually changes throughout her journey, and how it is related to the change in her own self. After tragically losing all of her family and her home, she had to repress her feelings to move on with the Indians to survive. She described the Wampanoag Indians at “Ravenous beasts” when she was captivated, which shows the anger that she felt towards the Indians at that time. The Indian’s diet was really different from the whites. Rowlandson hardly ate a thing the first week she was held captive. She described the Indian’s food as “filthy trash”, and she “could starve and die before she ate such things” (306). As Rowlandson’s hunger began to eat her up inside out, she had to repress her spoiled taste and anger in order to survive. During the seventh remove you can see her views of the Indian’s food change as she “got two ears of Indian corn” (307) and didn’t want to give it up. When one Indian asked her “can you eat horse liver?” (307), Rowlandson replied that she would try “if he would give a piece” (307). As she ate it, she described the horse liver as a “savory bit it was to me”. She explain to herself that “for to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (307). You can see that Rowlandson has experienced a change in her view towards the Indian’s food. She began being disgusted with their food then gradually precious it. There were many times where Rowlandson felt like she could just “lay down and die” right there, but as the journey goes on she says “I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (308). Her desire to live was encouraged through her dependence on God, which in turn helped repress her true feelings of depression because of the sufferings she was enduring. As Rowlandson’s travels goes on you could see that she has learned to accept the Indian’s culture. In the eight remove she says “I boiled my peas and bear together, and invited my master and mistress to dinner,”(309). That statement by Rowlandson does not seem like she’s in “captivity” and that she’s actually suffering. She also made clothes for the Indians, which they very much appreciated. Rowlandson realizes as she thinks to herself that throughout her time with the Indians “not one of them offered the least imaginable miscarriage to me”(310). She has fit herself into the Wampanoag Indian society by suppressing her true feelings of anger and depression towards the Indians in order to survive. During the eighteenth remove she stole a piece of horse feet from a child. Then she claims that “the things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat”(318). Rowlandson seems to be willing to do anything to fill her hunger, and she knew that she would have never done anything like that before her captivity. She had to restrain her true honorable self and past ideals in order survive. Rowlandson realized at the end of her captivity that amazingly “all the time she was among them one man, woman, or child die with hunger”(324). She realized that the Indians were not picky and spoiled, they were resourceful and ate whatever they could get their hands on to survive. Rowlandson knew that she had changed after learning this fact about food. Her views of life were different after her experience with the Indians. Rowlandson says, “the Lord has showed me the vanity of these outward things”(329). Therefore, the metaphor of food could be related to how Mary Rowlandson’s identity has changed from what it was before the captivity. Although she does not truly admit her anger and depression throughout the journey, her language itself can hint to the reader that she had to repress these feelings in order to survive.
Throughout this narrative the word “remove” is used regularly. The word can be seen in a figurative and literal way, both having metaphoric meanings to them. Every time Rowlandson and the Indians move to a new destination from their original place, she titles it a “remove”. There are twenty removes in her narrative, which literally means that her and the Indians traveled to twenty different places. The irony of the word “remove” is that she is actually moving closer to home and freedom instead of being removed from it. She has also actually been “removed” from what she use to be, fitting into another world with a different culture. Rowlandson from the beginning has had to remove her self from the ideas and values she use to believe in and also things that has had great value to her such as her dead baby. Again, events like this could lead to much depression and anger. But, she removed herself from those feelings through the words of God. She states in the fourth remove that “Thus saith the Lord, refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy”(305). Another way to describe the figurative meaning of the word “remove” can also be thought to mean the move of her spiritual life towards God. In each remove some incident she experiences was related to a passage in the bible. Mary Rowlandson learns something new in each remove by gathering proof that supports God’s words. Therefore, each remove could mean her own self moving one step closer to God, and being removed from her original state of innocence and not truly understanding the scripture. All this can come down to the theory that the last and only way Rowlandson could have the will to go on and survive was through repression of her feelings using the words of God as an excuse.
Mary Rowlandson endures a great amount of pain throughout the whole story. She had many reasons to be angry, hurt, and depressed as she lost everything in her life. Towards the end of the book she admits, “when everybody is sleeping, my eyes are weeping”(329). We can see the repression she experiences at the end when she can’t even sleep because of all the sufferings she had experience. There she basically admits that she was not truly happy. This could have been the crucial point in the narrative where her feelings of being angry, hurt, and depressed throughout the whole journey have been build up so long and so much inside of her that she finally has a nervous break down. Therefore, Rowlandson is seen through the metaphoric ideas of food and the word remove to have not only repressed her feelings of anger and depression, but more importantly that at the end her ideals and identity have changed from before the captivity.