Presentation on Mary Rowlandson's "The Sovereignty and Goodness of God"


Cultural-Context Discussion


-     (Scene: The Indians have just committed the atrocities and stolen Mary)

-     70: "ravenous beasts" / "barbarous creatures": Labels used to refer to the Indians.

First Remove

-     71: refers to the Indians and their celebrating as resembling hell; this / her description seems to equate the Indians with the devil and ungodly rituals.

Second Remove

-      (Scene: Mary is traveling with the natives)

-     73: "inhumane creatures": She refers to the Indians as beasts and creatures, as though they are somehow less human than she; perhaps because of their savage acts and 'uncultured' nature, she does not see in them humanity (as she has known it all her life).

Ninth Remove

-     (Scene: Mary has been allowed to go to find her son, and she meets various natives during her travels.)
(Second scene: Mary enters a wigwam while looking for food.)

-     84: no "miscarriage to me" / "very kind to me": A departure from the earlier description of Indians as inhuman beasts. Now she sees that not all Indians are cruel, and she writes of them with more human attributes (mercy / kindness). She more frequently refers to individual Indians (as opposed to grouping them, and their actions, all together).

Thirteenth Remove

-     (Scene: Mary says that sometimes she forgets she is out in the wilderness and enslaved by Indians)

-     88: “barbarous heathens”: Heathen can mean uncivilized and/or being irreligious. Mary has come to see some kindness in some Indians, but her prejudices do remain.


How much, if at all, does Mary’s view of the Indians change? She comes to speak of the kindness of some of them, but she will still refer to them as barbaric, uncivilized and ungodly. Has any change really occurred in her, or does she still see the Indians as not her equal?

‘Faith / Suffering / God’ Discussion

Third Remove

-     (Scene: Mary’s small child dies; she considers killing herself next to it)

-     75: choice not to end her life: She thanks God for having saved her. She has seen that God has a purpose for her (and her suffering).

-     (Scene: An Indian, returning from battle, brought a Bible and asked Mary if she’d like it.)

-     76: Bible: She describes being given the Bible as an example of the “wonderfull mercy of God.” She feels that the Word of God will help her endure her trials. (Mary often uses the Bible for encouragement and to help make her suffering more understandable to her.)

-     76-77: Deuteronomy passages: Mary often cites Scripture, sometimes comparing biblical events to her own. Here, the first half of the Deuteronomy passage is despair over having lost favor with God; then, in the second half, God's mercy is reaffirmed. This parallels Mary's own experience – her faith is strengthened, and she sees God's Divine Providence. As she comes to trust more in God and realizes his purpose for her, she becomes able to find the strength to go on.

Sixth Remove

-     (Scene: Mary continues to travel farther into the wilderness with the Indians)

-     Indians “as thick as the trees … no Christian soul near me … the Lord preserved me”: Mary is often quite alone in her faith; the non-Christian Indians are countless. But despite that hardship (of isolation in her faith), she continues to proclaim God's goodness.


Mary mentions Job a few times. God allowed Satan to test Job's faith, and he loses all: possessions, loved ones, and his own health. But he never curses or turns away from God. Like Job, Mary understands that her suffering is a part of God's good plan for her, not a punishment for sins. In allowing her to suffer so, but in always eventually taking care of her, God shows Mary to trust in him completely, to always turn to him. Mary realizes some of her own shortcomings (such as Sabbaths she has misspent) and sees what in her life had been distracting her from better knowing and serving God. Clearly, by the very title of her narrative, Mary learned that God’s purpose for her was to become stronger in her faith so that she could effectively share with others the “sovereignty and goodness of God.”



Topics of Discussion

-     Cultural context

-     Mary’s faith / suffering / God

Passages Used in Discussion of Cultural Context

-     page 70: “ravenous Beasts” / “Barbarous Creatures”

-     page 73: “inhumane creatures”

-     page 84: “And I cannot but admire at the wonderfull power and goodness of God to me, in that, though I was gone from home, and met with all sorts of Indians, and those I had no knowledge of, and there being no Christian soul near me; yet not one of them offered the least imaginable miscarriage to me.”

-     pp. 84-85: “But I was fain to go and look after something to satisfie my hunger, and going among the Wigwams, I went into one, and there found a Squaw who shewed herself very kind to me, and Gave me a piece of Bear.”

-     page 88: “barbarous heathens”

Passages Used in Discussion of Faith / Suffering / God

-     page 75: “I have thought since of the wonderfull goodness of God to me, in preserving me in the use of my reason and senses, in that distressed time, that I did not use wicked and violent means to end my own miserable life.”

-     page 76: “I cannot but take notice of the wonderfull mercy of God to me in those afflictions, in sending me a Bible.”

-     pp. 76-77: “So I took the Bible, and in that melancholy time, it came into my mind to read first the 28. Chap. of Deut. which I did, and when I had read it, my dark heart wrought on this manner, That there was no mercy for me, that the blessings were gone, and the curses come in their room, and that I had lost my opportunity. But the Lord helped me still to go on reading till I came to Chap. 30 the seven first verses, where I found, There was mercy promised again, if we would return to him by repentance; and though we were scattered from one end of the Earth to the other, yet the Lord would gather us together, and turn all those curses upon our Enemies.”

-     page 80: “The Indians were as thick as the trees: it seemed as if there had been a thousand Hatchets going at once: if one looked before one, there was nothing but Indians, and behind one, nothing but Indians, and so on either hand, I my self in the midst, and no Christian soul near me, and yet how hath the Lord preserved me in safety! Oh the experience that I have had of the goodness of God, to me and mine!