Re)inscribing King Philip's War: Mary Rowlandson and the advent of the Indian captivity narrative

Since the publication of Mary Rowlandson's, The Soveraignty and Goodness of God . . . , released six years after the close of King Philip's War and the death of the Pokanoket leader, Metacomet, in 1682, the Indian captivity narrative has operated as a widely influential component of American literary, historical, and cultural discourse. From the seventeenth century to the present, the metaphors, symbols, and the implicit ideologies of this literary genre have had a powerful and enduring influence on the public's perception of American Indian people, anAd the development of an expansionist American ideology. As a result, the operant binary of the bloodthirsty "savage" and the "civilized" Euro-American has become a common feature of discourses in which American Indian people have been, and continue to be, represented in American historiography, literature, art, film, and popular culture, while also serving as a primary textual justification for the territorial expansion of the United States, and as an implicit justification and historical alibi for the concomitant destruction of American Indian societies and cultures.

In this work, my aim is to deconstruct and demystify the regime of literary and historical privilege that has become an explicit function of Rowlandson's text and subsequent narratives by presenting a critical perspective that is responsive to the complex array of social, cultural, and historical forces that were converging in the Massachusetts colony during the late seventeenth century. In so doing, I have attempted to present the "Indian side" of the story and examine the events that Rowlandson describes in her narrative from the perspective of Indian people who have been all too often silenced in American historical and literary discourses. I have addressed and attempted to answer some of the nagging questions surrounding the original publication and dissemination of Rowlandson's work in order to shed some much needed light on the complex cultural and social processes at work in Puritan society during the seventeenth century, while illustrating how texts such as Rowlandson's continues to shape our perceptions of others and our own conceptions of historical reality.


Billy J. Stratton


Franci Washburn






ATT 3320246

UA Library: 

E9791 2008
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences