Comparative Analysis of Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative in Captivity and Restoration and Harriet Jacobs
Mary White Rowlandson (about 1635-1637, Somersetshire, England – January 1711, the Massachusetts Bay Colony) – was a resident of the British colony in the future the United States, taken prisoner by the Indians during the war, and has been held captive for 11 weeks until she was bought. After her release, she wrote a book about his trials under the title “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary White Rowlandson”. The book is interesting, as there is a detailed description of the customs of the Indians “from within”, and it also describes the mores of Puritan settlers of New England, as stated in Mary White Rowlandson. Having been the prisoner, Mary White Rowlandson was able to reflect the most important and significant issues of that time. She was able to show the real circumstances of that time, the consequences and the trials she faced. The captivity narrative can show the different sides of the problem, the truth, the challenges and the possible way out.
Mary White Rowlandson’s “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration” is a captivity narrative. In 1682, Rowlandson published a report about her captivity. It appeared in the New England Concord, under the religious title “The sovereignty and goodness of God and the truth of his promises”, the same year in London as “The true story of captivity and liberation of Mrs. Mary White Rowlandson”. The book became one of the first bestsellers in American literature. The American edition experienced in the same year a second edition and was also in the 18th and 19th Century often reprinted. Rowlandson report was the first in a series of such reports on the capture by Indians as “captivity narratives” soon formed as its own literary genre, as stated in The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682).
Mary White Rowlandson wrote a narrative, “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary White Rowlandson”, in which she recounts her trials, the brutality and bestiality, how she sees her captors. This is the first piece of what would become a distinct genre in American literature – the narrative of captivity. The narrative helps to understand what happened at that time, how people perceived the situation, what was done and what were the difficulties faced by millions. As a fact, Mary White Rowlandson’s short book narrative was considered a seminal work in American literary genre of captivity narratives.
Harriet Ann Jacobs (Edenton, North Carolina, 1813 – March 7, 1897) was an American feminist writer and abolitionist. In 1861, she published “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” under the pseudonym of “Linda Brent”.
Harriet Jacobs wrote “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, which is considered a slave narrative. As a fact, Harriet Jacobs is in the narrative, and has a pen name “Linda Brent”. In her slave narrative she describes chronicles of the experiences of Linda Brent as a slave, along with the humiliations and difficulties she faced. Moreover, the unhappiness, torture and slavery are the key worlds that can describe the narrative “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”. The narrative also describes the betrayal, harassment, and sexual interest caused by the white masters. This way, Linda managed to learn how to defend, and she was also torn between the choices- to have personal freedom or the personal responsibility to the family, as described in Harriet Jacobs.
However, Mary White Rowlandson’s “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration” and Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” are both narratives of different genres that share the same characteristics. They both describe slavery and captivity, sufferings, the truth of those times and experiences obtained from that, as stated in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The narratives are very useful for the reading, as it will be interesting and helpful to know the circumstances people were in the past, when they were slaves or prisoners, the way of life these people had, and the values that were at that time. It is always difficult to choose between the freedom and the family, as having chosen the freedom, a person may not see his family never again.
In her narrative, Mary White Rowlandson described how she was taken prisoner by the Indians, she described her trials and published a report about her captivity. She also described the customs of the Indians from within, the life at that period, the challenges she faced and the difficulties she has overcome. And in her narrative, Harriet Jacobs described the life in slavery, the family values, and the feelings when she did not know that she was a slave, as her parents did not tell her when she was young. She described from her own experience the difficulties and the hard life she had, she also described her master, and her rebellious spirit. Harriet Jacobs also explained the importance and relation to family, the difficulty of choice between the freedom and family and the cost of the freedom and happiness.
As a fact, the “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration” and “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, are different in the styles, in the description of the experience, in the difficulties faced. Harriet Jacobs published her narrative under the pseudonym of Linda Brent, while Mary White Rowlandson wrote a captivity narrative from her own experience and about what happened in her life. Harriet Jacobs described the slavery, family values, the importance of choice and the difficulties faced in “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, and Mary White Rowlandson described captivity and life in prison in “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration”. There are two different experiences with common problems and sufferings, with the lack of freedom and life as it had to be, because of the imprisonment and captivity, faced by Mary White Rowlandson and Harriet Jacobs. The personal experience, sufferings and the way they understood the aspects of that time, can be read in the captivity narrative and a slave narrative. Consequently, every detail of what is described by the writers happened in the real life and the emotions that are implemented in their works reflect the true circumstances and the trials they faced.
All in all, the two narratives mentioned above, written by Harriet Jacobs and Mary White Rowlandson, are definitely worth reading, as there can be found many historical and cultural details of that time, many interesting facts and also difficult and challenging life aspects that were faced by slaves and prisoners. The difficulties and humiliations that people have overcome, show the peculiarities of people’s lives, their values, their opportunities, their expectations and faith in the better future. Despite the many differences in the works of Mary White Rowlandson and Harriet Jacobs, there are many similarities in the way of thinking, in hope and beliefs, that the hard times finally will go away.
Harriet Jacobs. 2010. Web. 29 November 2010. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Sjacobs.htm>
Incidents in the life of a slave girl, By Harriet Ann Jacobs, Mrs. Child (Lydia Maria). 2009. Web. 29 November 2010.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. 2008. Web. 29 November 2010.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. 2009. Web. 29 November 2010. <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/incidents/characters.html>
Mary Rowlandson. 2010. The Narrative of the Captivity and the Restoration
of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682). Web. 29 November 2010.