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.    

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