The writings and narratives of the late 1600?s served to define an important place in the history of early American literature. Literature of this time is the consciousness of what life was like for settlers in colonial times and of the issues pertaining to this crucial point in American history. Some of the main purposes were to give an accounting of the writing styles of this time and to give historical significance to the violence that was so much a part of early America. The focus of this discussion is about Mary Rowlandson who was a colonial American woman that wrote a vivid narrative description of her eleven weeks she spent in captivity among the Narragansett Indians during the attacks known as ?King Philip?s War.? The other is an excerpt from Cotton Mather?s book ?Wonders of the Invisible World,? that defends his role in the witch-hunt trials in Salem, Massachusetts, by giving evidence to the belief that witchcraft was an evil magical power.
Popular religion of these early American settlers was the Puritan practice, which dominated the culture of both of these writers. In like manner, both espoused the belief in the evils of this era, Rowlandson on the evils of the Native American peoples and Mather on the evils of witchcraft. Both show the afflictions of the colonial settlements throughout Massachusetts and the belief that there was a loss of divine intervention and the encroaching presence of the devil. The common thread of these two works are the ever presence of good versus evil and the religious dependence on God to get them through the trials and tribulations in which they considered themselves afflicted.
Rowlandson?s intimate relationship with her Indian captors helps to understand the mind of the Puritan and the teachings of providence that was ever-present in the sermons and preaching by the Puritans. Mather on the other hand saw witches as the tools of the devil to undo the Puritanical colonies whereby the prosecutions of these witches were to secure God?s blessing upon the community. Both authors relied on their faith in order to sustain them through the tough times. Both stories are factual and help to relate to the reader by giving an accounting of what they lived through and used to teach the lessons they had learned.
Rowlandson tells us about the evils of the external enemy of the Devil through personal narrative in the form of Indians on the frontier. Mather?s focus is on the internal evil of witchcraft as a conspiracy within this culture to keep from corrupting others. She tells of her own trials and tribulations and seeks guidance from the Bible in similar conditions to her own. She saw her captivity as a trial and a test of her faith while considering the Indians as instruments of Satan. However, Mather reports of the afflictions that threatened the sanctity of Puritanical worshippers by witches who were seen as tools of the devil to overthrow the religious colony of Salem, Massachusetts.
Rowlandson and Mather were situated both in the time that was strongly influenced by factors such as the Indian Wars, numerous military defeats, the political fascists which only served to perpetuate the rise of the evil influences of the Devil. This belief escalated the tradition of fear in both the Indian wars and the Salem witch-hunts.
The significance to the literature of this time is to give us insight into the historical relevance of religion and the testing of faith by defining the cultural contact between people. The providential rescue of Rowlandson and Mather?s exorcism of the witches show the renewing spirit of the covenant between God and man through its citizens and of society itself. These historical events in history were to shape and define the literature that we know of today and form the backbone of colonial American through its people and their experiences.