Sarah Kemble Knight v. Mary Rowlandson

May 1, 2008
By Samantha Rubin, Chandler, AK

Carats and Karats appear similar on the surface. Both are spelled alike and are used in jewelry; however, they are remarkably different. While karats are used for calculating the purity of gold, carats are used as a unit of weight for gemstones. In the same sense, Sarah Kemble Knight and Mary Rowlandson are seen as alike but differ in many ways. Sarah Knight’s “The Journal of Madam Knight: A Journey from Boston to New York” records her coarse travel. In “A Narrative of Her Captivity”, Mary Rowlandson accounts her hardships during enslavement. They are so close in eras but the two differ in their attitude towards food. For example, Mary Rowlandson accepts food she dislikes while Sarah Kemble Knight refuses a smelly dinner. Also, they have opposing views on their religious conviction. Both appear to be strongly religious but Mary Rowlandson can only refer to the Bible, where as, Sarah Knight can quote and interpret. Lastly they respond to danger in different manners: one religiously, relying on God, the other believing in humanism but follows her faith.

Originally, both seemed picky about food but their views diverge. Mary Rowlandson dislikes many foods but is willing to eat them. While imprisoned, she accepts bear meat from an Indian. She states, “I asked her to let me boil my piece of bear in her kettle . . . some like it, but the thought that it was bear made me tremble.”(p29) She accepts the food anyway, knowing the rarity of meat. Conversely, Sarah refuses to eat unsatisfying food. While traveling, she left a meal because it smelled bad. As her journal depicts, “in a little time she [the landlady] brought it in; but it being pickled and my guide said it smelled strong of head sauce [cheese sauce], we left it.” (p35) For the reason that it smelled, she left after paying for the meal. The fact that Mary eats her food and Sarah turns from the smell confirms the difference in their attitude towards food.

Incontrovertibly, a Christian is a follower of God. Sarah Kemble Knight and Mary Rowlandson are Christians but the way they practice the religion is different. In captivity, Mary Rowlandson feels her faith is being tested when she has to carry her sick baby while they both are starving. As a reference to Job 16:2, she states, “This was the comfort I had from them, miserable comforters are ye all, as he said.” (p26)Mary Rowlandson was not able to quote Job; she could only say that he was in a similar situation. On the other hand, Sarah Kemble refers to Lot’s wife who suffered for looking back on the place she was trying to escape. As she explains:

” The canoe was very small and shallow . . . which greatly terrified me and caused me to be . . . sitting with my hands fast on each side, my eyes steady, not daring so much as to lodge my tongue a hairbrush more on one side of my mouth than t’other nor so much as think on Lot’s wife.”(p32)

Through this example, Sarah empathizes with Lot’s wife and is able to use the Bible’s passage to prevent the same mistake. Conclusively, Sarah Kemble Knight is able to understand the Bible and use it, but Mary Rowlandson knows just the basics of the Bible.

Conversely, Sarah’s and Mary’s response to danger oppose each other. After Mary Rowlandson’s child dies, she asks God for some relief. She writes,” I earnestly entreated the Lord, that He would consider my low estate and show me a token for good and, if it were His blessed will, some sign and hope of some relief.”(p27) She pleads God to help her, completely relying on Him for aid. Sarah Knight overcomes fear when she must ride through the hazardous river, relying only on the guide and herself. Recounting her experience, she says:

“I knew by the going of the horse we had entered the water, which my guide told me was the hazardous river he had told me of. I now rallied all the courage I was mistress of, knowing that I must either venture my fate of drowning or be left like the children in the wood”(p33-34)

Sarah Kemble did not pray to solve her answers; she solved them for herself. They respond to danger in separate ways.

These two women, Sarah Kemble Knight and Mary Rowlandson, appear to be alike on the outside but are very different people. They are religious women who run into danger and struggle with food, but they handle it differently. Sarah uses the Bible as a reference and Mary does not. When put in danger, Mary looks to God for answers and Sarah helps herself. Lastly, Mary is conscientious about wasting food, Sarah is not. Once uncloaked, the two even appear to be opposites.

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