Thursday, March 5, 2015

Shades of Hybridity in Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative

This process toward total Hybridity culminates when these two cultures begin to blend and warp together. Before, these two cultures are forced together, the way a round peg might fit in a square hole. Rowlandson hybridizes to avoid starvation and death. Her choices are limited. However, as she counsels a praying Indian with her bible, she moves out of that space and more toward total Hybridity.
“Her [Quinnapin’s] arms from her elbows to her hands were covered with bracelets; there were handfuls of necklaces about her neck, and several sorts of jewels in her ears. She had fine red stockings, and white shoes, her hair powdered and face painted red that was always before black.” (Rowlandson P. 128)
As Rowlandson learns to live with the Natives’ culture, the Natives have already learned to live with English culture. In the passage above, Rowlandson sees Hybridity on full display on one woman. Quinnapin wears a number of bracelets up her arms and her face is painted red, but her hair is powdered, a popular English affectation. Although these fashions come from different cultures, they’ve been fused together and are part of a new culture, all their own.
The above mentioned is only some of the ways the Natives adopted European cultures. Rowlandson writes – concerning a battle -, “…one that was afterward killed upon a weekday, were slain and mangled in a barbarous manner, by one-eyed John   , and Marlborough's Praying Indians, which Capt. Mosely brought to Boston, as the Indians told me…” (Rowlandson P. 121) A title like Captain isn’t typically used by Native Americans. Also, the name John    is Christian. The Natives adopted these names when Europeans washed up on American shores.
The Natives are, at one point, mistaken for the English. Rowlandson recounts of her time returning to King Phillip’s camp to be ransomed. Her heart leapt at the sight of men dressed in white stockings, with military ribbons on their shoulders. Rowlandson writes “…they were dressed in English apparel, […]; but when they came near, there was a vast difference between the lovely faces of Christians, and foul looks of those heathens…” (Rowlandson P. 21) In the earlier incarnations of Hybridity, it was considered like black ink spilt on white paper. Before, social theorists only examined the occupied and not the occupiers and believed that the colonized peoples were being forced to become more like their colonizers. In reality, the colonized peoples and the colonizers are unconsciously making a new culture, separate from the two old ones. Native Americans might have picked up the guns of English soldiers, but they also picked up their ways and adjusted them to suit a Native American lifestyle. The English, unaccustomed to the unforgiving new world, picked up Native American ways in order to survive. The English in America would not look like the English in England. Nor would the Native Americans be the same as their ancestors. 
As Mary Rowlandson attempts to cling to her English world, she becomes more hybridized. She becomes someone who takes her rest on the ground. She becomes someone who cherishes the taste of ground nuts and scolds ‘Poor Indians’ for not paying her for work completed. In spite of herself, she steps away from her English way - if only a little – and steps forward into a new Hybridized world.

NOTE: The quoted text is cited from two separate sources: The Norton Anthology (P.118 – P.134) and the Project Gutenberg website (P.1 - P.34) for the “Removes” not included in the Anthology.   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Shades of Hybridity In Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative

What are good conditions for Hybridity? Rowlandson doesn’t say in her narrative and Homi Bhabha isn’t precise either. However, by examining the subtext of Rowlandson’s narrative, a possible answer may arise. Consider these passages:  “…which he invited me to dinner. I went, and he gave me a pancake, about as big as two fingers” (Rowlandson P. 12) and “I boiled my peas and bear together, and invited my master and mistress to dinner...”  (Rowlandson P. 12) Being treated like a slave, it seems odd that she would do this. However, it does shed light on how she fared better than the Englishman. Although she says she wishes to set herself apart from the community, she’s looking for ways to be a part of it. Perhaps, Hybridity happens best when it is injected quietly and with a dose of sugar.
Now, consider this line: “I asked them whether I might not lodge in the house that night, to which they answered, "What, will you love English men still?"’ (Rowlandson P. 121)
There is one thing that Rowlandson doesn’t focus on which should be brought up. Though these cultures are very different, the Natives speak English, as shown above. The microscopic wars aren’t relegated to just microbes. Before a meal can be enjoyed, it must be ingested. Before another culture’s language can be enjoyed, it must be understood. Far later, Rowlandson counsels a Native using her bible. If the two can not communicate, these cultures can not meld like they do.
 Bhabha, in reference to Hybridity, emphasizes that this cultural exchange happens in both directions. For example, throughout this narrative Rowlandson refers to Native American babies as paposes, which is an Algonquian word.

As mentioned, a Natives seeks counsel concerning his brother, who refuses to eat horse though the Natives were going through a famine. Rowlandson writes “There was another Praying Indian, who told me, that he had a brother, that would not eat horse; his conscience was so tender and scrupulous (though as large as hell, for the destruction of poor Christians).” (Rowlandson P. 24) Here, Rowlandson shows a Native American abstaining from food due to his own cultural beliefs. Rowlandson remembers a passage in her bible, one of a famine where an ass’s head would sell for four pieces of silver. Rowlandson, using her own English culture, counsels the Praying Indian on what to do, writing “Then he said, he read that Scripture to him, […] He expounded this place to his brother, and showed him that it was lawful to eat that in a famine which is not at another time.” (Rowlandson P. 24) In this passage, Rowlandson shows that the Natives have found value in the culture that they’ve been warring against. This point is rather important considering that true Hybridity cannot happen until one culture finds value in another. In Rowlandson’s English life, as in modern life, acorns and tree bark have no dietary value. While on the move, and in constant cold, such foods might not be a treat, but would be highly valued.