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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Utopian

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•  Using the Video
•  Authors
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•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

Mary Rowlandson - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: The subject of food receives a great deal of attention in Rowlandson's Narrative. How does Rowlandson's attitude toward food change over the course of her captivity? Why is she so concerned with recording the specifics of what she ate, how she acquired it, and how she prepared it? What kinds of conflicts arise over food? What do her descriptions of eating tell us about Native American culture and about Rowlandson's ability to acculturate?

  2. Context: How does Rowlandson use typology within her Narrative? What kinds of biblical images does she rely on to make sense of her captivity? How does her use of typology compare with that of other writers in this unit (Winthrop or Taylor, for example)?

  3. Context: In his preface to the first edition of Rowlandson's Narrative, published in 1682, Increase Mather describes her story as "a dispensation of publick note and of Universal concernment" and urges all Puritans to "view" and "ponder" the lessons it holds for them. Does Rowlandson always seem to understand her captivity in Mather's terms? How do the moments when Rowlandson narrates her experience as personal and individual complicate this imperative to function as a "public," representative lesson for the entire community?

  4. Exploration: Many scholars view the captivity narrative as the first American genre and trace its influence in the development of other forms of American autobiographical and fictional writings. Why do you think the captivity narrative became so popular and influential? What might make it seem particularly "American"? Can you think of any nineteenth- or twentieth-century novels or films that draw on the conventions of the captivity narrative?

  5. Exploration: Compare Rowlandson's captivity narrative with Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relation from Unit 2. How do these texts portray Native Americans differently? What do they have in common? What kind of audience does each author write for? How does each of these narratives differ from the Yellow Woman stories in Unit 1?

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