Today, the role of women becomes more extended and widely interpreted compared to the views of the previous centuries. In recent decades, females acquired the rights to vote, be employed, take leading positions in organizations, and many others. Therefore, it is useful to better understand the place of women from a historical perspective based on the texts by Bradstreet and Rowlandson. In The Flesh and the Spirit, Bradstreet focuses on the conflict between heavenly pleasure and physical desires. Rowlandson depicts her captivity by Native Americans and notes the violence of both Indigenous men and women.
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Both Rowlandson and Bradstreet were the women who settled in Massachusetts, moving there from England and living in a Puritan society. In their texts, these authors discuss the notion of the female identity based on their self-images and social perceptions and expectations. The main theme of their works is the struggle between flesh and sin. The Flesh and the Spirit narrate the story of two sisters, who are used as symbols, where the spirit is glorified, and the flesh is subjugated. Such symbols reflect the expectations of Puritan society, where females were suppressed by males. On the one hand, Bradstreet (2001) wants to feel materialistic pleasure and identifies the place she imagines as “In secret place where once I stood Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood” (p. 2). On the other hand, she is forced to follow the demands of male domination, religion, and austerity. The author notes that “Things that are past and things to come”, which means that males decided the past, and they will identify the future (Bradstreet, 2001, p. 1).
In comparison, Rowlandson was another Puritan woman, who was captivated by Native Americans and released after several weeks. In her work, the author narrates about life in captivity, and the observation of other females is one of her topics. Violence concerning women is discussed by Rowlandson (2015), who calls men “ravening beasts” and “inhumane creatures” (p. 4). At the same time, the author views Native American females as savage, which seems to mean that she has stereotypes. In addition, she also considers them to be a deviation from normative femininity. The deeply-rooted Puritan attitudes do allow the author to recognize cultural differences and variations that can exist in terms of the feminine identity. Nevertheless, Rowlandson (2015) remains true to her Puritan strictness and religion, citing Psalm 27: “Wait on the Lord, Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine Heart, wait I say on the Lord” (p. 8). Likewise, in Bradstreet, Rowlandson experiences ambiguous feelings about her desires and views, but the social pressure prevents their development as feminine personalities.
To conclude, the texts by Bradstreet and Rowlandson have much in common as they pay attention to the role of women in the Puritan society of New England. However, these two authors are distinguished by their intellectual reasoning about their innate and unique desires and aspirations. While Bradstreet explores the conflict between the bodily pleasure and virtues prescribed by her religion, Rowlandson takes a look at the position of White females compared to those of males and Indigenous women. The tendency to self-discovery is probably the underlying reason for their ideas, which gives an impetus to the further transformation of women across centuries. Regarding the modern identities of females, it is possible to state that the works of Bradstreet and Rowlandson can be perceived as the writings that motivated change and improvement of females’ position in society.
Bradstreet, A. (2001). The Flesh and the Spirit. Web.
Rowlandson, M. (2015). Excerpt from the Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Web.