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Early American Captivity Narratives

            Captivity narratives were popular with readers in both American and the European communities. Captivity narratives of Americans relate the experiences of whites enslaved by Native Americans and Africans enslaved by Americans. Two widely read captivity narratives are The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano and are A Narrative of Captivity by Mary Rowlandson, in which relate the experiences of an eleven-year-old African male captured for the American slave market and of an adult white woman captured by Native Americans. Examining both narratives reveals differences in the purpose of the narratives, the similar and contrasting experiences and reactions of the two captives, how religion played a role in both experiences and the elements of literature used in the two famous works. .
             In Equiano's narrative, he is taken from his African home and thrown into a Western world completely foreign to him. He is a slave for a total of ten years and endeavors to take on certain traits and customs of Western thinking. Olaudah Equiano wrote to decry the evils of slavery. He makes references to the Bible to admonish Christians to follow the Golden Rule and abolish slavery (Equiano, 361). On the other hand, like most puritans of her time, Mary Rowlandson wrote to discover God's purpose in her life. The Narrative of the Captivity is a personal account written by Rowlandson of what life in captivity was like. The narrative of her captivity by Indians became favored in both American and English literature. Rowlandson essentially lost everything by an Indian attack on her town in Lancaster, Massachusetts; where she is then held prisoner and spends eleven weeks with the Wampanoag Indians as they travel to safety. Consequently, Rowlandson makes numerous allusions to the Bible comparing her situation to that of Biblical characters and interprets her treatment by her captors as punishment or reward from God.

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