A Captivating Adventure

Posted by:  EJ

In the captivity narratives folder of the blog there are five blog posts. Between these five posts there are 18 comments. When you combine all of this text it is the equivalent of 18 typed pages.

These 18 pages contain truly original content – ideas we created because we thought they were worth discussing. So what better way to conclude this chapter in the Known World than to revisit these ideas we deemed so important and see if there is one theme that will unite them.

After re-reading these 18 pages worth of material we all seem to agree that these captivity narratives are adventures. Whether we are travelling into the depths of an ancient person’s life or into the hostility of Indian culture, all the protagonists in these narratives have grown from their adventures in one way or another – these experiences have come to define these characters.

Beginning with “Tough Love,” a post about Mary Rowlandson’s adventure, Adam raised the question, “Quoting scripture with the Indians as the Antagonists, was her purpose to make them seem all the more vile, or was she trying to hide her growing understanding of the people, as she spent over eleven weeks with them?” This question recognizes the two aspects of her narrative that we found most captivating: her obsessive use of scripture and her growing acceptance of Indian culture. These two aspects of her narrative show a great amount of growth within her. Her faith, however obsessive it may be, is the sole constant as she finds herself in this world of change and as Claire said, “what is her narrative but a testament to the strength of her faith?” With regards to her assimilation into Indian culture she begins by calling the Indians “black creatures,” but by the end of the narrative she is eating horse liver with them.

Continuing with the Indian captivity narratives Quinn’s post titled, “Struggling to Survive” outlined the many challenges that Sarah Wakefield faced as she repeatedly tried to escape from her relentless pursuer, Hapa. Sarah Wakefield’s narrative shows growth within her as she forms unique bonds with her children and with Chaska, her Indian protector. When Chaska is murdered we see a strong emotional reaction in Sarah Wakefield that leads her to become a strong supporter of fair treatment for the Indians. In this case Chaska, a man she met while on her adventure, truly changed the course of her life. Sarah Wakefield’s bond with her children grows tremendously as well while she is in captivity, “I begged him to spare me for my children’s sake . . . anything rather than die and leave my children” (Wakefield, 254). Wakefield’s bond grows so strong with her children, and she is so impacted by this adventure that she writes the narrative for herself and for her children to remember the events.

Allison’s blog post titled “The White Woman’s Burden” provided insight into the life of Mary Jemison and addressed what it truly means to be “in captivity.” Allison raised the question, “was she really a captive all those years?” In fact, Mary Jemison’s assimilation into Indian culture was so great that when given the opportunity to leave she chooses to stay for she truly believes she is one of the Seneca women. Allison left us with a quote “Time is the destroyer of everything” to which Sarah responded by saying “The longer she is living with the Indians, the fonder she becomes of them.” This experience ultimately defines Mary Jemison’s life, for as time goes on she discovers who she wants to be.

As we transitioned to the story of Beigh Masters and her obsession with Hannah, Christina and Kristi both addressed the assimilation of cultures as it appears in this particular story. Christina summarized the adventure of both of these characters when she wrote, “just as Hannah was captivated by the new, “brilliantly hued worlds” she found herself in, Beigh admiringly views Hannah’s life as a “richer life” than her own (171,222). This notion that these women can be literally “captivated” by a world other than their own supports the idea that their “captivity,” their enslavement to these different worlds, has changed their lives, led them on an adventure of their own, and created growth within them.

Today is November 17th, about a month away from the end of the course, and I have this craving to take our disciplined study of these texts and try to figure out what it means for us. These captivity narratives have stressed the importance that an adventure can have in one’s own life.  What events, however small they may be, have changed your path through life? How will these events continue to impact you in the future? What adventure did these events lead you on and how did you grow as a result of it?

I will leave you with this. Yesterday night I participated in the residential scholars program – an effort to encourage informal discussion between professors and first year students. A nervous looking professor went up to the podium and explained his round about path to becoming a Dante scholar. He told us “think of your life as an organic whole. Your place in the world exists because you were born.” Every experience in that life will contribute to that whole, to that place in the world, and most importantly – to you.

5 responses to “A Captivating Adventure

  1. Very good summary-of-posts post. Some questions it generates for me would be whether, in all of these adventures, the journey or the destination is more important to the character development? And if in Holder of the World it was the setting that was most “captivating”, could the setting be part of the captivity in the other stories as well?
    I think adventures are very important in people’s lives; they are so powerful that they cannot be ignored. Some of the greatest adventures I’ve been on were when I moved. A new place, new friends, a new home, all forced a change in me that in one way or another has stayed with me for the rest of my life. But the little adventures can be just as powerful – I’ll never forget various adventures of imagination I went on in my own backyard, and they’ll influence the way I look at any future adventure.

  2. Your last line is “Every experience in that life will contribute to that whole, to that place in the world, and most importantly – to you.” If this is true, do the journey and the destination play an equal role in the people we become, as well as our places in the world? My greatest adventure has been my transition from a small high school in rural Rocky Mount, North Carolina to the large, unfamiliar University of Notre Dame. I remember feeling like I was entering a whole new world, a whole new way of living. I did not know anybody, but it was the smallest adventure to the fourth floor of Welsh family hall where I made my first friend. I know for a fact that I would not have made it through the first month of school without her. I think it is both the small and big adventures that allow us to find balance in our lives, producing the people we become, who then proceed to take our places in the world.

  3. I agree with Felicia–it’s not just different places that change you, but also the people that you surround yourself with. For some, it’s a new best friend, for others, a short visit with an influential person, such as a well-known author, or a teacher. Even if it’s only for a few class periods, a good professor can change your opinions on the world, or at least cause you to question your own world view. My civics teacher in high school was very similar to Socrates in that he consistently took the other side of the argument against the student speaking to him. Or, perhaps that only appeared to be the case. Coming out of a single semester with him caused me to question my opinions and my beliefs and the reasons why I supported those as opposed to others. To this day I continue to question, continue to explore, and continue to try and understand. I doubt that I would have come so far without his prompting and his questioning that I now have adopted for my own life.

  4. For me, my direction in life didn’t come from the most fortunate of events. For the longest time, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, or at least didn’t have a good grasp on the concept. As a child, I didn’t want to be a fireman or an astronaut. The idea of being a McDonald’s employee seemed much more interesting. Why I had this goal? I don’t have a clue. Still not sure of a real goal in life, the summer before fifth grade I was alerted to the fact that I had Benign Rolandic Epilepsy. With this form of epilepsy, you have seizures in your sleep, but grow out of it with age. Making a trip to the neurologist and having an MRI and EKG, I was fascinated by the images and graphs and their interpretations. Right then, in the unlikeliest of situations, I had found a calling. It wasn’t where I wanted to be as a fifth grader, sitting in that office, but all the same, our most influential events aren’t things we would choose to participate in, as is a prevalent idea in the Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives.

  5. I unfortunately agree with Adam, my original plan for life came out of bad circumstances. I decided I wanted to become a doctor, originally an oncologist, due to my mother’s cancer and the cancer of most of my family members as I was growing up. My mother’s oncologist, as we called him Dr. Tootsie, was the nicest man I had ever met. He always had toys for us to play with during my mom’s consultation and if we behaved, we got Tootsie Rolls at the end. He used to call and check on my mom once a week to make sure she was doing okay, and never hesitated to pick up the phone if she called him with a random worry. He was, in my mind, the epitome of a great doctor, and I have since decided I want to follow the same path. I want to make an impact on people just as he did. While I have since decided against oncology, my mission as a future doctor remains the same, always with him in mind.

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