The captivity of women was a common practice in traditional Indian society. The kind of reception, stage of development and treatment that one received as a captive significantly influenced whether one will be enthusiastic to stay with the Indians if given a chance to choose between reuniting with their European families or remaining with the Indian families as evidently portrayed in Mary Jemison’s captivity narrative and John Ford’s film The Searchers. The film and the narrative reconnoiter the common themes of gender inequality, racism, complex individuality, and resistance to civilization. Apparently, ambivalence can lead an individual to intriguing places as evident from Mary Jemison and Debbie Edwards’ captivity. However, despite being abducted and living in the Indian community for several years, Debbie finally chose to reunite with her European family whereas Jemison willingly wanted to be fully absorbed by the Indians. Thesis; the kind of reception, acceptance, and treatment that a captive receives determines whether they will fully be assimilated or might return to their homeland whenever such an inordinate opportunity presents itself.
Jemison remained in India while Debbie went to Britain after being freed since the hospitality of Indians always inspired Jemison. Jemison confesses that Indian women were kind-natured, mild in their personalities, amiable, decent, and had treated her gently (Derounian-Stodola 129-132). In her narration, Jemison asserts that she was always treated as an Indian and felt comfortable being among the Indians than going back to Britain where she might not be accepted. She perceived herself as having been civilized and apparently different from Europeans who are likely to discriminate her. Contrary, Debbie lives as Scar’s wife and the turmoil, savagery, and tragedy in India troubles her. She is transformed into a Comanche. Despite this, she hardly finds happiness living in a warring community where she was once discriminated.
Jemison had a family of Indian children to take care of, unlike Debbie, who lived her life solitarily. Jemison had developed strong connections with Indian children and felt that it was her responsibility to stay in India and take care of the growing generation (Derounian-Stodola 164). She had acquainted herself with the Indian culture and felt part of it. While Debbie was also willing to stay, her cousin, Ethan, often averred that “Living with a Comanche ain’t living,” hence Debbie was forced to leave since her relatives hardly appreciated the Indian culture (John et al., N.p).
Moreover, in the narrative, India is portrayed as a cool place that invigorated Jemison to stay while in the film it is depicted as a belligerent state with little elegance. Jemison describes how the seasons unfolded and life was perfectly well in India (Derounian-Stodola 172). According to her, she was settled and provided with a home portrays dashes of the improvisational subject succeeding the recital of catechism and solitary prayers. Debbie found herself in a chaotic environment and being young and childless, the option of leaving seemed best for her since she needed to join her family and enjoy the peace that was prevailing in the European homesteads. This is evident towards the end of the movie as she tells martin, “I remember, from always. At first, I prayed to you: ‘Come and get me, take me home.’ You didn’t come” (John et al., N.p). Evidently, Debbie was yearning to be with her people.
Considering the kind of vengeance and retaliation in India, Debbie chose to reunite with her family once freed. Scar, Debbie’s husband, was cruel and wanted to revenge for his two killed sons. “Two sons killed by white men. For each song, I take many… scalps”, portraying Scar as a tragic figure and psychologically damaged (John et al., N.p). Debbie was, apparently, considered a scalp. It was, therefore, prudent for her to leave. Jemison was considered as part of the Indian community that is portrayed as magnanimous. On several occasions, the Indians refer Jemison as a sister, a factor that motivated her to live in India as a freed European woman. She was also old and had no resources to start a life somewhere else knowing unambiguously that her relatives were slain when she was young.
In conclusion, the above explication candidly indicates that the kind of reception, acceptance, and treatment that a captive receives determines whether they will be willing to stay once freed. Jemison received a warm reception in the Indian community, a factor that made her develop a sense of belonging. After being freed, she felt that was deeply in adoration with the Indian community and opted to stay instead of leaving to Europe where she would wonder for long before regaining acceptance from her community. Debbie’s life in India was full of distrust. The warring Indian community coupled with her family’s patronization of Indians made her leave India once she was freed.
Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Z. Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.
John Ford, Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Jr H. Carey. The Searchers (DVD). N.p., n.d. Print.