The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

by: Mary Rowlandson

Motifs

The Threatening Landscape

The threatening wilderness through which Rowlandson moves characterizes the dangers and threats of the New World as a whole. Rowlandson’s journey begins with an uphill trek, which suggests the difficulties to come. From the summit, Rowlandson gets the last glimpse of civilization she’ll have for some time. The next day, the travelers set off down a steep hill, and Rowlandson and her daughter tumble off their horse: their descent into the hell of the wilderness has begun. The landscape grows increasingly bleak, and Rowlandson crosses desolate swamps, dark thickets, and icy streams. As she travels, Rowlandson sees farmlands gone to waste and slaughtered farm animals, and she fears the triumph of the Indians and the dark, unknown wilderness over the order and reason of civilization.

Christian Imagery and the Bible

Rowlandson frequently quotes the Bible and alludes to biblical tales, which emphasizes her own faith, her own knowledge of the scriptures, and their centrality in her life. She also uses the Bible to reinforce her descriptions of a world of dichotomies: punishment and retribution, darkness and light, and evil and good. By casting the Indians as children of the devil, Rowlandson depicts them as a large, permanent enemy. That is, the Indians are not just the enemy of the colonists in this war, in a specific time and a place, but rather represent the enemies of Christianity, goodness, and light throughout all time. By alluding to the Bible so frequently, Rowlandson turns her own story into an epic and allegorical tale that is broader than the story of one woman’s captivity.