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.   

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