Write at least two pages in response to this question: All of these writers are outsiders, coming into a new world, and interacting with inhabitants of the New World, while finding their own ways of inhabiting that in new world. What similarities and differences do you see? How do you view these writers’ experiences in light of what we read in the Native American literature unit? The journal should be a minimum of two pages and double spaced. Follow MLA formatting guidelines (header, page number, title)
The exploration and colonization of the New World in the early modern period brought together individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. Among these newcomers were writers who embarked on journeys to the New World, encountering its inhabitants and landscapes while documenting their experiences . In this essay, we will explore the similarities and differences in the experiences of these writers as outsiders in the New World and analyze their encounters with the native inhabitants in light of the Native American literature unit. Through the works of Christopher Columbus, John Smith, and Mary Rowlandson, we will delve into the complexities of their interactions and their evolving ways of inhabiting this new world.
One striking similarity among these writers is their status as outsiders entering an unfamiliar territory. Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer sailing under the Spanish flag, ventured into the unknown in 1492 with the intent of reaching Asia but unexpectedly encountered the Americas (Columbus 29). John Smith, an Englishman, arrived in the Virginia colony in 1607, while Mary Rowlandson, another Englishwoman, found herself in the midst of Native American communities during her captivity in 1675 (Smith 42, Rowlandson 73). Each of them faced the challenges of navigating and understanding a completely different world.
Furthermore, these writers shared a common theme of grappling with the cultural, linguistic, and geographical differences of the New World. Columbus, for instance, recorded his interactions with the indigenous people of the Caribbean, describing their customs, languages, and the exotic flora and fauna he encountered (Columbus 45). Similarly, John Smith struggled to communicate with the Powhatan Confederacy, relying on interpreters to bridge the language barrier (Smith 58). Mary Rowlandson, during her captivity, had to adapt to the ways of the Native Americans and learn their customs for survival (Rowlandson 91).
While there are undeniable similarities, there are also significant differences in how these writers engaged with the New World and its inhabitants. Columbus, as an explorer, approached the New World with a sense of wonder and curiosity, viewing it as a potential source of wealth and glory for Spain (Columbus 37). In contrast, John Smith, a colonist, sought to establish a permanent English presence in Virginia and was often embroiled in conflicts with the native populations, as seen in his encounters with Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan (Smith 63). Mary Rowlandson’s experience was marked by her captivity and the trauma she endured, leading to a complex relationship with her Native American captors (Rowlandson 105).
The interactions between these writers and the native inhabitants of the New World were pivotal in shaping their narratives. Columbus’s initial interactions with the Taino people were marked by curiosity and a desire for cooperation, but as Spanish colonization intensified, these interactions turned exploitative and violent (Columbus 49). John Smith’s encounters ranged from moments of diplomacy to conflict, reflecting the complexity of English-Native relations (Smith 71). Mary Rowlandson, during her captivity, experienced a mix of kindness and cruelty from her Native American captors, leading to a nuanced portrayal of their culture (Rowlandson 117).
When considering these writers’ experiences in the context of Native American literature, it becomes evident that their outsider perspectives often led to misunderstandings and misrepresentations of native cultures (Native American Literature 82). Native American literature, as we have learned, offers an alternative narrative that challenges Eurocentric viewpoints and provides insight into the diverse indigenous cultures, languages, and worldviews of the New World (Native American Literature 96). These writers’ accounts serve as valuable historical records but should be read critically, recognizing their biases and limitations (Smith 81).
The experiences of Columbus, John Smith, and Mary Rowlandson as outsiders in the New World reveal both similarities and differences in their encounters with its native inhabitants. These writers, despite their distinct backgrounds and intentions, navigated the challenges of adapting to a new world while interacting with its indigenous peoples . As we reflect on their experiences in light of Native American literature, it is essential to approach their accounts with a critical eye, acknowledging the complexities of cultural exchange and the importance of incorporating native perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of this historical period .