The theme of religion has played a significant role in both Mrs. Mary Rowlandsons The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration and Frederick Douglass The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Both Rowlandson and Douglass bring out a ghastly depiction of the masters religious beliefs and acts, which they criticize throughout their texts. In Rowlandson's narrative, there is a great difference between her religion and the Indians religion. She uses her strong Christian values not only to criticize her captors lack of values and morals but also their religious conviction. For instance, when she says Oh the roaring, and singing, and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures which made the place a lively resemblance of hell (Rowlandson The First Remove), it is evident that because of her strong Christian principles, she judges those with different practices like her captors, the Indians. Similarly, Douglass in his narrative uses religion to criticize religious slaveholders. Although he is a Christian just like the slaveholders in the south, he feels that religious slaveholders are worse than those who are not. He criticizes how some slaveholders used religion to cover the horrid crimes they commit against their slaves. When he says, I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes, a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, and a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds (Douglass 110), it is evident how he criticizes slaveholders and feels that because of their horrid acts, it was impossible for one to be a true Christian and a slave owner at the same time. Additionally, he talks about how his master, Master Thomas, became meaner and crueler after receiving religious conversion at the Methodist camp meeting. Douglass says, and after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty (Douglass 84). This is seen when he tied up a young woman who was lame and whipped her then quoted the scripture saying He that knoweth his masters will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. (Douglass 86).From this, it is evident that religious slave owners used religion to justify their cruel acts, which Douglass criticizes in his narrative.
Even though both Rowlandson and Douglass criticize their masters religion, there is a difference in what they criticize (in their masters religion). Douglass is not against the whole Christian religion but against the slaveholding religion while on the other hand, Rowlandson is against the whole religion and beliefs of her captors. When Douglass says, I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land (Douglass 155), this shows that he is not against the Christian religion in general but against the slaveholding religion that justifies slavery, which is used by slave owners. On the other hand, Rowlandson, because of her strong Christian principles feels that the Indians are barbaric and diminishes the whole religion portraying them to be evil and frightening. This is evident when after their capture, she describes how the dancing and singing of the Indians made where they were, look like hell and she even refers to them as black creatures (Rowlandson First Removal).
In conclusion, both narratives bring out the theme of religion, which is seen through their religious beliefs. They both criticize their masters hypocritical religious acts even though they criticize in different ways.
Rowlandson, Mary. NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY AND RESTORATION. Project Gutenberg, 2009. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/851/851-h/851-h.htmDouglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. 1845. https://archive.org/stream/narrativeoflifeo00fred
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