THE UNREDEEMED CAPTIVE by John Demos

THE UNREDEEMED CAPTIVE

A Family Story from Early America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From an obscure and isolated event, Demos (History/Yale), a Bancroft Prize-winning historian (Entertaining Satan, not reviewed) explodes the easy oppositions between Christian and savage, Indian and white, nature and civilization--oppositions on which the narrative of colonial American history has traditionally been built. In 1704, Mohawk Indians, converted to Catholicism by Jesuit missionaries, allied with the French settlers in Canada, attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 of the very young and old and kidnapping 112 more. They then marched the prisoners to Canada, killing 20 more women and several children along the way as acts of mercy, including the wife and infant son of John Williams, a Puritan minister and a prize hostage. While he and his surviving sons were ultimately released, his daughter, Eunice, who was seven at the time of her capture, remained with her captors, converted to Catholicism, and at the age of 16 married an Indian, with whose people she chose to spend the rest of her life. Among Demos's narrative achievements is his representation of the religious, cultural, political, economic, and psychological orientations that collided in this episode, the web of fears, justifications, and powers revealed in the process of encounter: the Puritan fear of the wilderness, the English fear of the French, the Jesuit missionary fever, the French-Canadian greed, the Indian interpretation of Christianity, and the arrogance with which Puritans interpreted a massacre as an expression of God's will, of redemption and resurrection. This thought-provoking study explores the multiple communities to which apparently simple people belonged and how their domestic lives were overtaken by political events. Fascinating, lively, and especially timely to an age struggling to understand the implications of its own cross-cultural encounters.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-394-55782-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994




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