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Posted by on February 27, 2012

Please respond to this post by identifying the two captivity narratives that you will explore AS WELL as your major theme, issue, or question that will drive your essay. Your deadline is 10 AM on Wednesday, March 21.

48 Responses to CAPTIVES

  1. Joseph Harris

    The two captivity narratives I have decided to use for my paper are the ones dealing with Juan Ortiz and James Smith. The theme of my paper will be to show how the native americans based on those captivity narratives felt like the more superior race compared to the white colonists. I will respond to that by showing like how Juan was like a slave to his captors and how even though James Smith was somewhat accepted he was still in the lower class of the tribe.

    • admin

      Dear Joseph,

      The way I read your post I understand that you will be looking at the power relationships between the indigenous groups and the captured colonists. You want to show that the way that the Native Americans thought about their treatment of the captives was actually different from reality. Juan Ortiz was treated like a slave and James Smith was relegated to lower class even though the Native American groups “felt like the more superior race.”

      I think that you have the start to something here in regard to power dynamics and the contradictions between vision and reality (for colonists and for the Indian groups).

      I would press you to give this more thought by re-reading the Ortiz and Smith narratives to determine whether there is enough there to assess what Native Americans thought – and remember that it’s coming from the perspective of the colonists. I’m not suggesting you abandon this but maybe you want to think about assessing more of the captives’ experience than the indigenous as we have material from the captives.

      But let’s meet to discuss.

      • Joseph Harris

        Okay what if I took those two narratives and talked more about how they both went through tough times when they were first captured. For example, James was captured and forced to do a gauntlet run at his first indian camp and was then taken to a french fort and had to hear about what happened to General Braddock’s army. As you know Juan was captured and didn’t have to do the gauntlet run, but he was almost burned to death which left permanent scars on him forever, and was forced to run under the watch of the chief and his followers. If he stopped, he was punished further by them, but he was finally accepted by the chief Hirraghua’s nearby neighbor.

        • Prof. Strauss

          See my e-mail to you and let me know if you have questions. Thanks Joseph.

  2. Austin Hunter

    The two captivity narratives I have chose are John Smith and James Smith. The theme is on the question of cultural assimilation presented in the two narratives.

    • Prof. Strauss


      Great topic to consider cultural assimilation between these two rich narratives. Now – what angle are you going to take. I would try to choose 2 to 4 ways that you are going to compare and contrast assimilation. Let’s meet on this.


  3. Tracey Gerhardt

    Without trying to turn this into a psych class or being too assumptious, I would like to attempt to reflect similarities and/or differences of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Rowlandson!

    • admin

      Hi Tracey,

      I’m not sure that Mary Wollstonecraft makes sense here. I wonder if you could build on the idea of fear in the story of Mary Rowlandson and, let’s say, Jane McCrea. You might consider how women in captivity deal with fear in a different way than men? Just a thought. Respond here or let me know in office hours (or by appt) where are you in the essay now.


  4. Erik Carroll

    I will mainly be using the Captivity Narratives of James Smith and Mary Rowlandson in contrast to outline how the American Identity of liberty in the 1800s was developed out of several areas where there was a denial of specific freedoms. More specifically I will probably compare religious tolerance with freedom of opportunity.

    • admin

      Hi Erik,

      I see some good themes in this post (liberty coming from the denial of specific freedoms in captivity) and comparisons between religious tolerance and freedom of opportunity. I’m less clear on your specific question. But perhaps you may consider how the narratives of Smith and Rowlandson (remember that Smith comes much later than Rowlandson) each contributed to the evolution of the colonists thinking on liberty because the way they were written, transmitted, and received by New Englanders in particular? Let’s meet about this – or continue to communicate here.


      • Erik Carroll

        Yes I’ll collect my thoughts on this topic and your input and talk to you about it further, I just wanted to leave some space to further develop my exact question while I am doing the outline because I found that helps clear a lot of confusions up. I definitely am comparing how liberty in america evolved thought denials of specific freedoms from Rowlandsons time to Smiths time. I feel like the major changes or adjustments to liberty will have a lot to do with religious tolerance as a denial and freedom of opportunity being a result, but this is just and example. Since the American identity of freedom is defined by the people/colonists/new englanders of each time that will be the basis for my comparison.

        I hope this works, I just didn’t want to singularly do some thing already laid out and standard like the courses main three themes (spiritual belief, freedom to captivity, and the environment) to make things more interesting.

        Erik Carroll

        • Prof. Strauss

          Ok Erik – I think you may be on to something here – by discussing change over time as it relates to understandings of liberty and religious tolerance (or intolerance) in this case. I just would encourage you to choose a bite-sized topic relating to liberty instead of trying to tackle the big abstract concept in 6 pages.

  5. Kristen Warner

    I will consider the captivity narratives of Mary Rowlandson and James Smith to identify the effect of assimilation within the new world. I will also look at the balance between freedom and captivity.

    • admin

      Hi Kristen,

      I like this topic about assimilation very much. I think that you could come up with a smart essay on how each of these individuals entered (or did not enter) the community during captivity and assess why they did what they did —- and in the last part, how the choices they made in captivity influenced their life after and how their narratives were perceived. Is this along the lines that you were thinking too?


  6. Yusuf Rabbani

    I have decided to use religion as the center of my topic for this paper. I believe that religion was the center of the creation and construction of the Thirteen Colonies. For this topic I have chosen the Jesuit priests entry of the captivity narratives and the story of Mary Rowlandson. I believe that in these two topics religions was the driving force behind their will to endure the captivity. The paper will include details about the use of Christianity to convert native Americans as well as seem innocent. I will most likely critique the narratives and attack the characters in the narratives in order to prove a point which is that religion was the main source of wars in the United States.

    • admin

      Hi Yusuf,

      Many thanks for posting. Religion is an excellent topic. I think that it would be good to start by making a list of the ways in which Rowlandson and the Jesuits talked about their faith during captivity. What did their faith do for them. The Jesuits were really interested in the rituals and in reminding themselves of the ancient stories of martyrdom in the Catholic Church. Rowlandson kept her bible close and interpreted events through the lens of the Old and New Testaments. You may decide to compare and contrast exactly how these individuals used (and maybe you believe abused) faith during captivity. Is that where you are going?

      I’m nervous that this issue about religion causing wars may be difficult to prove given the limited sources of the two narratives but I could be convinced. Why not schedule a time to meet about this or talk it over more here.


      • Yusuf Rabbani

        I agree with your comment on having limited resources to use religion as the target of my argument, but since both narratives are solely based on the ways religion helped them keep positive during those captivities and the fact that they made little attempt to assimilate to the cultures of the native tribes would make a great target for my essay. I am curious as to how far I am allowed to research these two narratives. Am I allowed to use other texts that explain their captivities and themselves as a people?

        • Prof. Strauss

          Okay Yusuf – it sounds like you want to move forward on religion. Outside research is not necessary but is allowed and may be crucial for your argument. Have you decided on a thesis for your essay yet? Be sure to take a look at the prompt again.

  7. Alex Fenton

    i decided ti discuss how the Native Americans treat their prisoners, using john smith and james smith

    • admin

      Hi Alex,

      I think this could be a good essay. You will want to make very specific lists of how Smith and Smith are treated. You may consider sending that to me as soon as you have it. Then we could talk about how to group the various kinds of treatment together so we can compare and contrast. You will also want to note the differences in the Native American groups, the specific communities that Smith and Smith are coming from, the time period, and the location – these will be important.

  8. Danny Mosco

    The two captivity narratives I have decided to use will be those of Mary Rowlandson and Hannah Dustan. Although Dustan’s is short, it still serves as a good contrast to Rowlandson’s story. My main theme is going to be about the cultural contexts of that era, and what the ideal picture of what a woman was supposed to be in that culture. This will obviously lead in to Puritanism, the idea of being a “city on a hill,” Increase Mather, etc. Two very different women who acted in different ways to their captivity.

    • admin


      Great topic. I think you should really focus in on how the narratives (and their uses and abuses by men like Increase Mather) reveal archetypal womanhood in their times and regions. And maybe comment on the strengths and weaknesses of using captivity – this high pressure situation and highly visible experience depending on how the narrative was used – to understand womanhood.

      Let’s talk about this more in office hours or by appointment. I think I owe you an e-mail.


  9. Stephan Raddatz

    The two captivity narratives I would like to use are James Smith and Christophe Regnaut. I find it to be very interesting how depending on the group a person is taken captive into there are major differences in the treatment of people when in captivity. The theme of my essay would be the major contrast in the treatment of the captives in these two narratives. Some captors tourture and defile the bodies of their captives while others will eventually invite the captive to be a part of their tribe.

    • admin

      Hi Stephan,

      We already talked about this in office hours but I definitely think that it would be worthwhile for you to focus on religion and how the religious traditions of Smith and Rowlandson prepared them for captivity in different ways, influenced their experience in captivity in different ways, and informed their time after captivity and perhaps more importantly the uses of their captivity narratives in different ways. (And of course also point out points of comparison). Let’s meet or dialogue via this blog or by e-mail after you put together your lists and outline.


  10. Michael Sekuloski

    I am going to write about John Smith and James Smith. I will be talking about these two man and their experiences with the Indians and what each of them learned from them.

    • admin


      I think comparing and contrasting Smith and Smith is a good idea but there’s not enough here for an essay. You’ll have to focus in one area to compare and contrast. Perhaps it involves how these two men were soldiers but lived in very different times. You could take a “change over time” approach and make conclusions about the contexts and places where Smith and Smith come from and return to by zeroing in on how these military people experienced captivity. Just a thought. Let’s meet about this or continue the dialogue via e-mail or on the blog right away.

  11. robert macari

    The two captivite narratives witch i choose were James Smith and Mary Rowlandson and how they perceived the world around them and how the look at differentely. and both views and thoughts changed over time

    • admin

      Hi Rob,

      Smith and Rowlandson sound like good people to compare and contrast. Remembering that these individuals came from different places and lived during different times, you may have to be more specific on how you work with them. What interests you most about these two individuals?

      Let’s meet on this.

  12. Matt Hartz

    I choosing to write on the two narratives of John Smith and James Smith by comparing the ways in which each were treated as well as how Native American culture played a role in their respective captivities.

    • admin

      Hi Matt,

      It sounds like you are on to something here if you believe that there is enough information in the texts to understand Native American culture – you will want to be careful to be sensitive to the differences in the Native American group and not make blanket statements about the different kinds of captives…and captors…

      Feel free to run further ideas about this topic by me in office, by appt, or through e-mail or this blog thread.


  13. Alan Potts

    My two narrative that I will use is Mary Rowlandson and Hannah Swarton. The theme of this paper is how religion helped these two women and how their minds changed by being with the Indians.

    • admin

      Great topic Alan. Religion and women in captivity. I would now go through both texts and make a list of how you are perceiving faith working in their captive experience or in the context of how their narratives came to be published as well as reasons for why you think that these individuals being women matters…or doesn’t matter. After you compile this list, then choose on particular angle that’s going to allow you to make a new and concise argument for how these words work together – captivity, gender, and religion. Let’s make a time to meet in office hours or discuss via the blog or e-mail to further refine your topic. CTS

  14. John Martin

    I am choosing the narratives dealing with Hannah Swarton, and with John Marrant. I will be analyzing their experiences, and showing the similarities and differences between what they went through, and also how each one reacted to said experiences.

    • admin

      Hi John,

      I like that you have chosen Swarton and Marrant – they have rich but understudied stories. So GO FOR IT! But I’m not yet sure where you are going with the essay and what particular angle you are taking. Perhaps after you go through the texts and make a list of how you perceive them having similar and different captivity experiences, you’ll arrive at specific argument to wage. Let’s meet on this.


  15. Jenna Pecenka

    I am going to write on Mary Rowlandson and the Jesuit priests. I’m going to compare how the two got treated differently and possibly answer the question on why they were treated so differently.

    • admin


      This is a great start to a question. I especially like how you want to study how Rowlandson and the Jesuits were treated differently but then go further and assess why that was. Make sure to keep in mind all the differences in who they were and who the Native American groups were. And why not write back with your further thoughts and specifics and consider making an appointment to discuss this further.


  16. Bobbi Hunt

    I am going to compare the captivity narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Hannah Dustan because they are so different from each other. I will discuss how each woman fit or did not fit into the Puritan society at the time and look at what social norms the women at the time were expected to follow.

    • admin

      Hi Bobbi-

      Great topic – Puritan women in captivity. And I also like how you want to look at how they fit into or did not fit into Puritan society. How will you pull in what we learn from their captivity? What does it say about their specific roles in Puritan society and the role of women in Puritan society more broadly? I think you are on to something. Let’s meet on this or continue to dialogue via the blog or by e-mail.


  17. Nathan gatti

    I will most likely be using the James smith and Hannah swarton captivity narratives for my essay. I will take a look at the differences and possible similarities between the two narratives.

    • admin

      Hi Nate-

      Have you made any progress here? I like the two narratives that you have chosen but don’t know yet what angle you are taking. It’s important to come up with a specific theme or question that will drive your analysis. Feel free to come by office hours, make an appointment, or send me an e-mail or blog post. Let’s talk soon.


  18. Erik Negru

    I will be using the narratives of the Jesuit Missionary Martyrs and Mary Rowlandson. My paper will look at the value one holds in their faith and its importance to the people settling the New World.

    • admin

      Hi Erik-

      This sounds like a good start. I like the idea of looking at the value that the captor puts in faith and how we learn more about how faith operates in the New World and in the new American identity by looking at how it operates when under pressure – in captivity. But now it’s time to refine the argument and come up with some specifics. Let’s meet on this or dialogue virtually.


  19. Kelsie Dykstra

    I will be taking a look at the narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Hannah Dustan and Hannah Swarton.
    I want to focus on any potential religious motives or ideas that might have been inserted or exaggerated by Increase and Cotton Mather in the telling of each captivity story.
    It would also be interesting to note any differences between Increase Mather and Cotton Mather’s approaches to telling these testimonies, in terms of generational or religious differences.

    • admin

      Hi Kelsie-

      That is an interesting idea – the Cotton v. Increase Mather comparison and contrast. Is this what you are still thinking? I’d like to hear more about it and especially whether you have enough information to pull this off. But I do think it has real potential. Let’s meet on this or dialogue online.


  20. Tim Young

    How were women treated once captured by Native Americans? I will be looking at the Swarton and Dustan narratives.

    I’m sorry I’m late with this, I has going to post it after my classes yesterday, but I was bogged down with hwk all day!

    • admin

      Hi Tim-

      I’m looking forward to meeting with you on this and I think that the idea of women in captivity is a good one. A few others in the class are taking this approach (which is a good thing). You may want to take a look at their posts and consider more specifically what angle you are taking. It should be more than just “these are women in captivity – how were they different and/or the same” but I don’t think that’s what you’d do. Again, talk more tomorrow.


  21. Tyler Crum

    I will use the narratives of the Jesuit Missionary Martyrs and of of Hannah Swarton. I will be writing about what role their religion and faith played in their captivity and how it helped them or not.

    • admin

      Hi Tyler,

      Take a look at the previous posts on how faith played a role in the lives of captors and captives – a few people are writing on this. I think that you are on to something here but will need more specifics to know how to help you. Let’s meet on it or continue to discuss online.

      Take care,