American Puritanism and the Defense of Mourning:
Religion, Grief, and Ethnology in Mary White
Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative
Mitchell Robert Breitwieswer
Mary White Rowlandson, a New England Congregationalist minister's wife,
was held captive by the Algonquin Indians during King Philip's War in 1676. Several years after
she was ransomed and living among the British again she wrote a narrative of the captivity.
Breitwieser argues that this narrative undercuts the Puritan values Rowlandson attempted to
uphold. The emotions that accompanied experiences were sublimated or blocked by the
Puritan insistence that life is an allegory. Despite her best intentions, Mary Rowlandson challenged
this sublimation. In her narrative she struggles to keep hold of her real grief for her dead daughter,
while refusing to see her Indian captors as simple embodiments of the devil.