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There is no such thing as a perfect human–let alone a perfect Christian. Early Puritan beliefs took scriptures from the Bible and practiced each one with extreme literality in their lives. Narratives such as Of Plymouth Plantation and A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson were written by such Puritans.
Of Plymouth Plantation was written by William Bradford, a pilgrim turned puritan, a founder and the governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts- he documented the early history of the town and the struggles they faced along the way.
A Norrative of the Captivity and Restoration… was one of the first recognized Indian captivity narrative as it was written by Mary Rowlandson, a respected Puritan woman and the most famous victim of King Philip’s war, documenting the positive and negative interactions within her eleven weeks of being held captive by the Native Americans. In each of these stories Native Americans are viewed in ways a Puritan belief system supports- Native Americans were sent by God to show the Puritans how to survive in what was perceived as uncharted land, they were wretched savages for wanting to take back the land in which they inhabited first, and throughout the decisions made by the Puritans, they assumed everything would be okay as they were in the hands of God.
Upon the first encounters between the Puritans and the Native Americans, Bradford and his men initially thought they were savages and barbarians who wanted them dead.
Declaring themselves superior to the Natives, it didn’t assemble within their minds that the Native Americans might actually want to help.
Not making a very good first impression, the Native Americans would often run away when eye contact was made, as well as resulting to theft to get the attention of the Puritans. Until around March 16th an a chief came out from hiding and spoke to them with broken English. He explained to them another Indian, Squanto, had been to England and spoke better english than him. Peace was then made between the two groups with a set of rules, their tools stolen were returned and Squanto was made their tour guide. He taught them how to plant corn, fish, and essentially how to survive in the harsh winter; Squanto stayed with the pilgrims until he died. The Puritans learned multiple useful tools for survival from Squanto and they grasped as much as they could from him, not because they were thankful, but because they believed he was a “special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation” (p. 84).
The Puritans believed that God was responsible for everything and put their entire faith for survival in Him. Every success they encountered they believed it was the act of God and prayed and thanked Him for it. Initially viewed as savages, the Native Americans were then seen more as tools sent by God to help the Puritans survive rather than being viewed as equals, for the Puritans felt superior. Not only did William Bradford and his group believe that the Native Americans were savages, but Mary Rowlandson believed this as well- although her colony had good reason. An attack on her colonial settlement took place during February 1675 and Rowlandson along with her children were kidnapped by the Wampanoag Native Americans. Being captured and held hostage obviously did not place good thoughts about them in her head, but as the narrative progresses we see that the Native Americans are less like savages and only want to keep people captive to get what they want- their land. They never raped her or tortured her in anyway.
They utilized her for her skills and gave her the necessities to survive. She describes them as “ravenous beasts” (p. 129) and “barbarous creatures” (p. 130) for taking them from their home and burning down their houses and killed 12 of her people only encouraging these thoughts. Throughout the narrative Rowlandson constantly makes references to the Bible quoting versus she can relate to in that moment claiming God brought her to that scripture. During captivity, one of the Native Americans actually gave a Bible to Mary so she could practice her beliefs away from home as that is what gave her hope and the motivation to keep going. Puritans put all their faith into the Lord and believed that whatever path he put them on was the path they were meant to take. Living a life solely based on the bible and everything within it, made it harder to cope with the capture for when sabbath came she was worried for how careless she had been of God’s holy time. Puritan ideology was based on taking each word from the bible and applying it literally within each of their lives.
William Bradford’s account of the Native American’s help reflect the Puritan belief in a way that they believed it was God who helped them interact with the Native Americans and Squanto was sent to them as a tool to help them survive. Mary Rowlandson’s account of the Native American’s represents them during their vengeance. Her story helps enhance the importance of Puritan belief for it shows a great example as how far the Puritans will go to practice their faith and stay close to God. In conclusion, throughout certain narratives written during the 1600s, they make it evident how important their beliefs were and portray that through the situations presented to them.
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