The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

by: Mary Rowlandson

Mary Rowlandson

The protagonist and narrator of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is a middle-aged wife and mother of three children. Though she was born in England, she has lived in the American colonies for nearly four decades and has lived in the frontier settlement of Lancaster for more than twenty years. Married to a minister, she is pious, and her Christian faith, like that of other Puritans, plays a central role in her life. Rowlandson believes God plays an active role in people’s lives, showing his grace in the form of safety and well-being and expressing his disapproval by plaguing people with misfortunes or tragedy. When confronted with a disastrous Indian attack, Rowlandson questions her conception of herself and her society. She is certain that such an attack must have happened for a reason, and, taken captive and unsure if she will survive, she seeks to uncover that reason.

In her search for understanding, she turns to Christianity and finds meaning and comfort in the Bible. Like other Puritans, she projects the struggles that occur in the Bible and in her own psyche onto the landscape around her. America often seems to be a new Eden, but the landscape and its native inhabitants also seem connected to hell and the devil. Rowlandson casts herself alternately as Job (whose suffering is a test of his faith) and as one of the Israelites fated to wander in the wilderness (whose trials are brought upon them as punishment for their own failings). Rowlandson has a great fear of devolving to savagery—of “backsliding” religiously and socially—a fear that appears in other Puritan writings as well.