The Sovereignty and Goodness of God

by: Mary Rowlandson

Symbols

The Attack on Lancaster

The attack on Lancaster, described as a fiery inferno, represents God’s wrath and the strife and chaos of King Philip’s War as a whole. When Rowlandson describes the start of the attack, she writes that “several houses were burning, and the smoke ascending to heaven.” This image of smoke rising to heaven suggests ritual sacrifice and emphasizes that this attack has religious meaning and is more than just a random or political attack.

Robert Pepper’s Oak Leaves

The oak leaves, which Robert Pepper helps Rowlandson use to heal her wound, suggest the positive potential of nature. In addition to being a dangerous temptation, the natural world can also be a means of curing a person’s ills. One must be taught, however, how to use nature’s bounty, and God must be willing to provide assistance as well. That the natural world proves to be a source of healing is also a threat to Rowlandson, since she has always linked the wilderness with savagery, not civilization. These healing leaves help Rowlandson develop a different, more ambiguous perspective on the world.

The Indians’ Clothing

The Indians Rowlandson encounters often dress in the colonists’ clothes. Sometimes this is a sign that the Indians are converts to Christianity, but at other times it signifies their savagery, since the clothes are from enemies they have killed and towns they have ransacked. The Indian in British clothes, then, suggests the unreliability of outward appearances. Though the Indians may look civilized, Rowlandson suspects—though she is not certain—that they are still savages underneath.