When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away

November 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Rowlandson’s The Sovereignty and Goodness of God was originally published in Boston, then in London, in 1682.  The text recounts Rowlandson’s eleven week captivity among a band of united Indian tribes from New England in 1675, during King Phillip’s War.  The book went through three editions in its first year alone, becoming the first bestselling work published in the British American colonies.  Since its fifth edition in 1720, the story of Rowlandson’s captivity has never been out of print in the United States.

A large portion of the text outlines Rowlandson’s relationship with God through the lens of her captivity, and affliction is a concept that runs throughout her writing. Affliction, as it is conceived within a religious context, deals mainly with the belief that God tests the chosen and the faithful in order to reinforce an individual’s reliance on religious conviction. Puritans like Rowlandson, who adhered to a Calvinistic model of Protestantism, considered affliction a blessing from God as it offered proof of God’s concern for a person.

In her last paragraph, Rowlandson explicitly connects her captive experience with the idea of affliction. She closes her text by writing:

Before I knew what affliction meant, I was ready to sometimes wish for it. When I lived in prosperity […] I should be sometimes jealous least I should have my portion in this life, and the Scripture would come to my mind, Heb, 12.6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every Son whom he receiveth. But now I see the Lord had his time to scourge and chasten me.  The portion of some is to have their afflictions by drops, now one drop then another; but the dregs of the Cup, the Wine of astonishment: like a sweeping rain that leaveth no food, did the Lord prepare for my portion.  Affliction I wanted, and affliction I had, full measure (I thought) pressed down and running over; yet I see, when God calls a Person to any thing, and through never so many difficulties, yet he is fully able to carry them through and make them see, and say they have been gainers thereby.  And I hope I can say in some measure, as David did, It is good for me that I have been afflicted.

While she positions herself as thankful for her relationship with God throughout her captivity, this argues that she and her readers should view her past pain as a blessing. She wanted affliction at one point in her life and it was given to her in spades, which makes her feel more knowledgeable and superior for having suffered. The status of this text would suggest others felt the same.  read more

ART: Clyfford Still

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You are currently reading When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away at my nerves are bad to-night.

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