Sovereignty And Goodness Of God Essay, Research Paper
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God is a primary source document written in the 17th century, by a well-respected, Puritan woman from Virginia. This book, written in cahoots with Cotton and Increase Mather, puritan ministers, tells the story of her capture by Indians during King Phillip’s War (1675-1676). For three months, Mary Rowlandson, daughter of a rich landowner, mother of three children, wife of a minister, and a pillar of her community lived among “savage” Indians. This document is important for several reasons. First, it gives us insight into the attitudes, extremes, personalities and “norms” of the Puritan people we learn about in terms of their beliefs, and John Calvin’s “house on a hill”. Beyond that, despite the inevitable exaggerations, this book gives us insight into Indian communities, and how they were run and operated during this time.
Mary Rowlandson was a pretentious, bold and pious character. Her narrative did not make me feel sorry for her at all, which is strange since she really did go through a lot. During the war, the Narragansett Indians attacked Lancaster Massachusetts, and burned and pillaged the whole village. During the siege Mary and her six year old child were shot, she watched her sister and most of her village either burn or get shot. She was kept as a captive, along with her three children and taken with the Narragansett’s on their long retreat. The exposition of the story is set immediately. The reader is perfectly aware of Missus Rowlandson’s status and religious beliefs. She constantly refers to the Narragansetts in an incredibly condescending way, to the point that you know that she does not even consider them human. She paints them as purely evil people, and does not even respect the “Praying Indians.”
From the beginning of the story, when she says that they did not give her any food, (when you find out later that not only did they give her food, but she was so hungry that she hoarded it for at least a month) I couldn’t even feel bad for her because of her obnoxiously condescending attitude. I also find it hard to believe that her attitude does not change. She maintains that ALL Indians are barbarians throughout the whole narrative. She complains of being a servant to these people, when it seems to me that she had a lot more freedom than any slave I’ve heard of does did. Her master not only allows her to leave on her own and visit her son, he gives her directions. When ever his second wife- Weetamoo kicks her out of the wigwam, she is free to do whatever she wants, not to mention the other Indians always take her in, give her better accommodations than Weetamoo, and feed her. It seems to me that she was more of a citizen of their community, in their minds, than a captive. Weetamoo is the only Indian that is mean to Mary.
Wetamoo’s behavior towards Mary also sparks an interesting question in my mind. Could the godly and perfect Mary have been sleeping with her Master? “My master being gone, who seemed to me the best friend that I had of an Indian, both in cold and hunger…” (86) He seemed to care about Mary greatly. He allowed her to go see her son, fed her upon her return to him from her stay with Weetamoo, and seemed to care about her greatly. It also seems to me, that Mary sleeping over in different and unknown wigwams when Weetamoo’s child was dying, is inappropriate behavior for the godly.
Mary’s faith is what got her through being a captive. With everything that happened to her, she only saw the good things as a sign from god. She believed that not getting wet when she crossed a river, was god, with her sending her a sign (79). As her six year old child lay dead in her arms all she could think about was “the wonderful goodness of god to [her], in preserving [her] in the use of [her] senses, in that distressed time, that [she] did not use wicked and violent means to end [her] own miserable life.” (75) I believe that the moral of this story is that god is always on the side of the godly. In class, we learned about declension, which is the decline of the puritans from being the elect by god, to focusing on material goods and greed. The foreword of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God tells the reader about Mary’s life. It says that her husband, who rose from poverty to be one of the most respected members of his community, with a title, and holding the most desired position in their society- a minister, met a lot of resistance from the public, because he threatened to go to another town if they didn’t give them more money. I believe that Cotton Mather, and Mary probably saw the Indians as a sign of god’s disfavor for Mister Rowlandson’s unholy greed.
I learned a lot from this narrative. It made me sympathize more with the Indians during this time. The obnoxious and presumptuous attitudes of the colonists are more than crystal clear to me. Their greed for land and furs, as explained in the foreword, and their inability to respect a culture that is so different from their own is more than apparent. What shocked me most about this story is how Mary (Puritans in general?) felt about Catholics. When Mary spoke of the possibility of her son being sold to the French-Canadians she says “he may bless the Lord; for it might have been worse with him, had he been sold to the French, then it proved to be in his remaining with the Indians.”
I would like to believe that the Mathers altered Mary’s narrative to make the Indians seem more like savages. I want to like Mary, and in order to do that, I would hope that she showed more sympathy towards her mistress when her child died, especially considering the recent death of her own child. I also would hope that she was not so deluded that she “forgot” that they had given her food, which she was “so desperate for,” that she was able to hoard it for a later date. However, it may be an unfair assumption on my part to believe that this was the Mather’s doing since she complained of her dying child’s lack of food, yet hoard it for herself. Not to mention that when she went begging for food at another time, Mary and a captive child were given boiled horse feet, and after she ate hers she ate the child’s because he/she could not bite it and was only gnawing on it.
I think that this narrative is important for us to read in order to understand the mind-sets of the colonists and the Indians at the time of King Philip’s War. I believe that it is an excellent source, and really allows the reader to get a peak at what life was like during the 17th century. I also think that it is amazing that she is the second “American” woman to write and publish a book, and it is interesting to see how strong she was to preserve her own life in such an unfamiliar and “uncivilized” situation.