By Bernice M. Murphy (auth.)
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Extra info for The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness
As Abrams states, ‘this tendency to polarize wilderness into the dark Other of civilized order lies rooted in the religion and cultural history of Northern and Western Europe, where well into the seventeenth century, as historian John R. 116 For the Puritans, New England was the physical embodiment of a spiritual ideal: a wilderness waiting to be transformed into paradise. This belief would have profound implications for the ways in which they perceived the Indians. If the wilderness was the natural home of the Devil (who would do all that he could to frustrate the building of heaven on earth), and the wilderness was where the Indians lived, then it seemed logical (as well as convenient) to conclude that that they were servants of Satan.
If fellow captivity-narrative author Hannah Dunstan (who, according to Cotton Mather, apparently took up a tomahawk herself and led a revolt which killed her captors in a spectacularly gruesome fashion)141 epitomises ‘ending B’, then Rowlandson, who, through her faith in God manages to survive long enough to be delivered from her nightmare experience, surely conﬁrms to ‘ending A’. Like the ‘Final Girl’ during the ﬁnal moments of a slasher ﬁlm, Rowlandson is separated from those whom she loves and forced to battle for survival against all the odds.
150 It is that reluctant trek into the unknown – the unknown being both a physical and psychological state – that terriﬁes her most of all, and with good reason. ‘The Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay colony were particularly concerned about the possibility of becoming wild in the American wilderness. ’151 To experience enforced and prolonged exposure to the ‘howling wilderness’ of the Puritan imagination was to also risk losing one’s soul. Even the most ‘civilised’ individual could degenerate, given the right (or rather, the wrong) circumstances.