Thursday, February 5, 2015

Shades of Hybridity in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative

 “The first week of my being among them I hardly ate anything; the second week I found my stomach grow very faint for want of something; and yet it was very hard to get down their filthy trash…” (Rowlandson P. 3)
Rowlandson had gone far from her English life and clearly struggled, as illustrated in the passage above. This passage illustrates how Hybridity happens gradually. In the first stage, it is a microscopic war: the flora of her stomach against the foods and drink of her new world.  Biologically speaking, her body might not be able to handle a Native American diet. She would have to make a choice: train her body to live on horse meat and ground nuts or die. In the following passage, she makes her decision:
“… but the third week, though I could think how formerly my stomach would turn against this or that, and I could starve and die before I could eat such things, yet they were sweet and savory to my taste.” (Rowlandson P. 3)
This micro-biotic war is a very real thing and has physical casualties. While Rowlandson manages to train her body, others hadn’t. Rowlandson writes of her encounter with a young Englishman, left sick and filthy, in the road. Rowlandson writes “I asked him how he did? He told me he was very sick of a flux, with eating so much blood.” (Rowlandson P.18) In this passage, it is evident how treacherous hybridity can be in its initial stages. Later on, it becomes apparent that hybridity is essential to Rowlandson.
Throughout this narrative, pain and starvation constantly loom over Rowlandson’s head. The Natives aren’t actively injuring her, but they do lash out if they feel she’s being difficult. They also neglect their captive on a regular basis. This is Rowlandson’s greatest danger in her time among the Natives. Because Rowlandson did not become a casualty to the aforementioned microscopic war, she is able to survive, as illustrated here, “I found six acorns, and two chestnuts, which were some refreshment to me.” (Rowlandson P.125)

Other instances shows how Rowlandson works with the Natives in order to escape pain, and starvation. Throughout this narrative, there are many examples of random kindnesses that fortify Rowlandson’s body as well as her spirit. For example, Rowlandson writes “I asked her to let me boil my piece of bear in her kettle, which she did, and gave me some ground nuts to eat with it…” (Rowlandson P. 13) Here, Rowlandson shows the reader that she has to eat the way they do and later, she’ll sleep the way they do. 

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