Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 76 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ronald Bosco

Committee Members

Edward Schwarzschild


Indians in literature, Indian captivities, Frontier and pioneer life in literature, American literature, Indians of North America

Subject Categories

American Literature


This thesis examines the genre of Native American captivity narratives and their evolution from their first appearance in the seventeenth century to their waning popularity in the nineteenth century. The thesis starts with the Puritan narrative as a device for spiritual elevation and pronouncement. As Calvinism begins to diminish and the American Revolution approaches, captivity narratives take a turn from anti-Jesuit propaganda to anti-Indian propaganda. Narratives were used not only to warn colonists and Americans of the savagery of Indians, but also to strengthen the separation between the English and Indian inhabitants of America. The anxiety of degenerating into savages themselves became a pressing reality for colonists and Americans, and that anxiety became even more frightful as captives' adoption into Native American families emerged as a prevalent feature in narratives. The lure of adventure and excitement on the frontier among the Indians was a noticeable theme throughout later narratives. Captivity narratives can be used to understand the formation of the American identity, and their influence can be seen even in modern texts and media.