Skip over navigation

The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

Mary Rowlandson

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

How to Cite This SparkNote

full title ·  The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, also known as A Narrative of the Captivity and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, also known as The True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

author · Mary Rowlandson

type of work · Autobiography

genre · Captivity narrative

language · English

time and place written · Sometime between 1676 and 1682, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

date of first publication · 1682

publisher · Samuel Green (Cambridge, MA) and subsequent others, including Houghton Mifflin

narrator · Narrated by Mary Rowlandson, at least one year after the 1675 attack on Lancaster

point of view · Rowlandson narrates in the first person, as she is telling the story as a memoir, focused on events she has witnessed and experiences that have happened to her. Rowlandson’s narrative is partly objective, but this does not mean it is unbiased. Rather, it means she describes people and events as they would appear to an outside observer. Her descriptions of her own thoughts, feelings, and motivations, however, make the narrative partly subjective as well. An outside observer could not have known the emotions that Rowlandson felt during her captivity and that she relates in her narrative.

tone · Rowlandson’s tone is colored by hindsight. She tells the story of her captivity having already been freed, and she knows how the story ends. Though she is at times filled with despair, her overall tone remains hopeful. Her tone can also be described as didactic: she presents her story as a lesson to others.

tense · Past

setting (time) · Rowlandson’s captivity lasts from February 1675 until May 1676. The final pages of her narrative tell briefly of the year or so following her release.

setting (place) · Primarily Massachusetts Bay Colony, ranging from what is now western Massachusetts to Boston, with excursions northward into what is now Vermont and New Hampshire

protagonist · Mary Rowlandson

major conflict · Rowlandson must survive her captivity and return to civilization without being reduced to the savagery of the Indians. She must also learn how dependent she is on the grace and providence of God.

rising action · Attack on Lancaster; travels through the wilderness; Rowlandson’s increasing awareness of her own capacity for savagery (for example, the moment when she eats a piece of half-raw horse meat)

climax · The Ninth Remove, in which Rowlandson realizes her captivity is by no means near an end and in which she realizes her dependence on both the will of God and the kindness of strangers. In this section, she first eats the meat of a bear and finds it fortifying rather than repulsive.

falling action · Continued captivity; Rowlandson’s lack of patience with the captive child who is unable to properly chew his meat; Rowlandson’s willingness to threaten the Indians in return when they threaten her

themes · The blurred line between civilization and savagery; life is uncertain; the centrality of God’s will; the fear of the New World

motifs · The threatening landscape; Christian imagery and the Bible

symbols · The attack on Lancaster; Robert Pepper’s oak leaves; the Indians’ clothing

foreshadowing

 · Rowlandson’s mention of victory and deliverance at the end of the Fifth Remove foreshadows her ultimate redemption and the victory of the colonists in King Philip’s War.
 · The drunkenness of Quannopin in the Twentieth Remove foreshadows the ultimate decline of the Indians and their defeat by the colonists.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us