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CAPTIVITY, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND CULTURE: THE ROLE OF THE CAPTIVITY NARRATIVE IN AMERICAN NATIONAL IDENTITY BY JILLIAN LARAH BROWN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the require ments for the degree Bachelor of Arts in History Under the Sponsorship of Dr. Robert Johnson Sarasota, Florida May, 2011
ii Acknowledgments First and foremost, I wou ld like to a c know ledge my parents for their unconditio nal support and encouragement. I was solely able to receive this rewarding e ducation due to all of the sacri fices they have made for me I am truly grateful. I am incredibly thankful to have had Dr. Robert Johnson as my thesis sponsor. I truly believe his guidance made my thesis what it is today. I am also very appreciative of Dr. Dav id Harvey and Dr. Heather White my committee members who se support was undoubtedly clear during my baccalaureate exam. I would also like to thank all of my friends who supported me through thick and thin this year A special thanks is given to Kirstin Ohlsen, Stephanie Parrish, and Alyssa Sonchaiwanich for taking the time to help me with the editing process.
iii Table of Contents I. Acknowledgments ii II. Figures iv III. Abstract v IV. Chapter One: The Captivity Narrative in American P erspective, An Introduction 1 V Chapter Two: The POW Captivity Narrative and the Cold War 20 VI Chapter Three: The Iranian Hostage Crisis and th e Captivity Narrative 40 V II Conclusion: Challenges to the Captivity Na rrative 57 V II I. Bibliography 60
iv Figures Figure 1 13 Figure 2 31 Figure 3 37 Figure 4 42 Figure 5 43 Figure 6 52
v CAPTIVITY, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND CULTURE: THE ROLE OF THE CAPTIVITY NARRATIVE IN AMERICAN NATIONAL IDENTITY Jillian Brown New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT This thesis studies the captivity narrative throughout American history, focusing on early Puritan captivity narratives and later twentieth century narratives that developed during the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In each period, as American captives applied meaning to their experiences of trial, a common narrative structure evolved that built a collective national identity. The captivity narrative structure was adaptable across genres, i ncluding autobiography, film, television broadcast, and newspaper accounts, suggesting the resilience of the narrative. Despite changes in the historical context, each captivity narrative followed a similar rhetorical structure that confronted challenges t o American character, morality, and identity. Ultimately, the captors, redeemed the nation, and established a consciousness that elevated American identity to a hi gher moral plane. Dr. Robert Johnson Division of Social Sciences
1 Chapter One The Captivity Narrative in American Perspective: An Introduction The Eagle of his Nest No easier divest -And gain the Sky Than mayest Thou -Except Thyself may be Thine Enemy -Captivity is Consciousness -So's Liberty. Emily Dickinson, #384 A captivity narrative designates a literary genre in which the experiences of a and character, this narrative expressed the threats faced by hostages and has dominated American history. The captivity narrative became a distinct genre following Mary Rowlandson's 1682 chroni cle of her capture by Alg onquian Indians, and since then it has served to transform one's individual experience into symbols of a shared American identity, and ultimate m 1 and the captivity narrative proclaimed a set of assumptions on the nature of human experience, on human and divine motivations, and on moral values. As different American communities embraced such cultural guidelines, th e captivity narrative served to sustain and reinforce American identities in various ways. This introductory chapter defines the captivity genre and seeks to establish its significance in American history and culture. The Puritan Captivity Narrative The original captivity narrative developed in the context of Puritan America. 1 G L. Ebersole, Captured by Texts: Puritan to Postmodern Images of Captivity (Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 1995), 7.
2 These early colonial accounts centered on the duality of wilderness and civilization and were framed by the Puritan's ideological mission. According to D. Campbell, the Puritans we re the first settlers of America to undertake the logistical work and ideological rationalization required for long term colonization of what was to become the United States. 2 This justification was established through a religious narrative that assumed A merica could be the landscape of the Christian Reformation. Puritans, as S. Bercovitch called an American mission,... [investing] that patent fiction with all the e motional, 3 Puritan settlers understood their identity in strict religious ter ms. Specifically, the Puritan identity was defined and celebrated through reaffirming their spiritual mission. defined themselves in relation to God, or as one minister pu 4 As a consequence of this religious orientation, Puritans regarded the land as belonging solely to themselves and the people and objects they encountered were understood as obstacle s to their destiny. 5 The frontier, as a type of meeting place between civilization and wilderness, specifically stood as a block to the Puritan spiritual mission. The discourse of the wild was never defined by a mere topographical space, but also include d the people within that space who represented 2 D. Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. (Minnesota: University of Minnesota P ress, 1992), 107. 3 S. Bercovitch The American Jeremiad (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 11. 4 Bercovitch, 11. 5 Campbell, 108.
3 hostages into the savage landscape, the Puritan captivity narrative confronted these concerns and ideologies. Mary Whit e Rowlandson, the wife of Puritan preacher Joseph Rowlandson, was the first person to narrate captivity as a trial of civilization versus a wild Indian during King Philip's W ar, Rowlandson narrated her captivity through a series of episodes stages of nearly twelve weeks of travel in extremely difficult winter conditions. M. Rowlandson was not taken hostage individually but was captured as part of a group. Her narrative, though, strictly followed a format that was concerned with the individual and spiritual nature of the experience. This format was followed as other Puritan captives narrat ed their experiences and built the captivity narrative genre. Generally, the genre took the following form: the Puritan begins in a happy condition of innocence or complacence; by divine intervention, the Puritan confronts trial and ordeal in which his or her soul is in peril; upon return, the Puritan experiences a figurative rebirth, that a ttainment of a new soul. 6 The Puritan narrative thus spiritually interpreted physical captivity. Puritans, for instance, believed that the human condition after the Fall was a form of spiritual ptation. 7 Because Puritans mostly encountered Indians in times of conflict (e.g. King Philip's War), the wilderness represented temptation and the Indians represented sin. The physical captivity among 6 R. Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600 1860 (New Hampshire: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 101. 7 of guilty disobedience. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden initiated this fall in Chr istian tradition.
4 Indians was a disruption of the natural order Puritan s equated with civilization, and the colonists often posited an unseen supernatural agent acting in history as the cause. 8 Puritan captives hence portrayed their ordeals through the hands of God. Mary emed to leave his people to themselves and order all things for his holy ends. Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it? 9 This conclusion is not surprising; Puritans belie ved that when left to their own devices, humans would inherently be drawn to evil. They also believed that God would be the one to lead people back to good. The Indian captivity was thus a historical reality of the nity. As V. Vaughan and E. Clark put it, 10 The symbolic Indian played an important role in this narrative. Indians were often portrayed as devilish savages that were the antithesis of civiliza tion. In a 1647 11 European colonists clung to the virtue of labor, equating toil with civilization, an d scorned the Indians as uncivilized for what the whites interpreted as willing idleness. With regard to captivity, Indians were thought to act through the hands of God and were subsequently the perceived instrument of torment and anti religiosity. Under standing the will of God as the final agent behind all events, though, did more than explain how captives came to 8 Ebersole, 24. 9 M. W. Rowlandson, Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary White Rowlandson (Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2004), 31. 10 A. Vaughan and E. Clark, Puritans Among Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676 1724 (Massachusetts: President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1981), 1. 11 Women's Studies Quarterly 21, no. (Fall, 1993),191.
5 captivity; it also had ramifications for how captives identified with their captors. According to the Puritans, Indians were always savage an d evil, no matter how many good deeds they performed. Mary Rowlandson revealed this point: I cannot but take notice of the wonderful mercy of God to me in those afflictions, in sending me a bible. One of the Indians that came...and asked me if I would have a bible, he had got one in his basket. I was glad of it, and asked him, whether he thought the Indians would let me read? He answered yes. So I took the bible. 12 In Rowlandson's eyes, it was not the Indian who had solely brought her together with the reinforced Puritan duality of test and forgiveness, while also promoting a constructed racial hierarchy that was defined in terms of civilization and savagery. The hiera rchy placed the Puritan above all, since God tests his decided chosen people. Mary 13 The captivity narrative had cu ltural ramifications beyond the mere captor and captures. John Williams' dedication in his Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion (1707) wonders of divine mercy, which we have seen in the land of our captivity, and been delivered therefrom, cannot be forgotten without incurring the guilt of blackest 14 Here, it is not pressing that the captives remember their experienc es; Williams implies that the community at large must learn from captivity. Not only did captives understand their experiences in terms of a Puritan world view, but it was the entire community who had to take away the same conclusions. The ease at which Indian 12 Rowlandson, 8. 13 Rowlandson, 37. 14 Quoted i American Literature 19 (1947): 2.
6 captivity could represent colonial r eligious ideologies appealed to ministers who used such narratives to define a New England identity. In 1702, for instance, Cotton Mather introduced the seventh book of the Magnalia with this emblem of the state of the church: icture of the Church, Let him take a silly poor Maid...in the midst of many Furious Men assaulting her every Moment: For this is her Condition in the world. Behold that Picture of Church Exemplified in the Story of New 15 Indian or aptivity and deliverance thus defined the journey of the New England soul and society toward redemption. Benjamin Franklin, in a 1753 letter to a friend in England, directly stated the fear of Indian captivity in disrupting a constructed American society: When white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and have lived a while among them, tho' ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay...yet in a Short time they beco me disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them. 16 This description suggests that a cultural iden and understood against the Indian captors. The Puritan captivity narrative was a powerful tool in expressing a community's sense of the meaning of experience, in rationalizing actions, and in moving people to ne w actions. The sheer popularity of these narratives revealed the extent to which communities embraced such meanings. There are over thirty known editions of the Mary Rowlandson narrative and twenty one editions are recorded of John Dickenson's, including translations into Dutch and German. Mary Jemison's account went through at 15 Early American Literature 22 (1987): 86. 16 Q uoted in Kolodny, 189.
7 least twenty nine editions, and the popularity of Peter Williamson's narrative accounts for its forty one editions. As the narratives were read by contemporaries, they were under 17 Cultural responses to the Puritan captivity narrative demonstrated the need to eople by ensuring awareness of the inherent warnings of captivity. basic example: On Ju ne 20, 1676, a council meeting at Charlestown ordered the people of Massachusetts Bay to observe a day of solemn thanksgiving, to praise God for protecting pass bitter thing 18 While the wilderness was the venue of captivity, it was subsequently a landscape of redemption since the captive sought his or her salvation through embracing God's punishment. As Fitzpatrick argues the hostage narratives helped transform the image of the American wilderness from a savage wasteland to a land from which settlers could embrace their virtuous sustenance. Part of the cultural work of the narratives was to accommodate a changing relatio nship between the New England colonists and the wilderness, between the community's demands and the individual's desires. 19 Captivity Narratives: A Review of Current Scholarship A number of individuals have contributed to the scholarship of Puritan captivity 17 Ebersole, 23. 18 American Literary History 3 (1991): 1. 19 Fitzpatrick, 20.
8 (1972) and A. Vaughan and E. Clark's Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption, 1676 1724 (1986) study the works through literary perspectives: they deconstruct the narrative structures and focus on the inherent meanings of the text. T he works of R. Slotkin, K. Derouian, S. Jeffords, and D. Ebersol G. Sieminski, howev er, reveal that the captivity narrative is significant across several disciplines. This section will review the current literature concerning the captivity narrative, first as it developed against the Puritan world view and second, how it was used for pol itical ends. R. Vanderbeats, for example, sees captivity as taking a common narrative form, one that proceeds from separation (abduction), transformation (ordeal, accommodation, and adoption), and return (escape, release, or redemption). 20 He argues that while captivity narratives certainly informed a Puritan cultural index, the overarching structure Vanderbeats thus rejects the notion of captivity narratives being solely impo rtant for pointing to cultural indices, arguing that the sheer popularity and resilience of captivity narratives across time and space prescribes their ability to transcend culture and maintain one singular meaning. While Vanderbeats approaches the capt ivity narrative through a seemingly structuralist perspective, looking for the one meaning that applies to all cultures, other authors, such as Vaughan and Clark, are concerned with the specific literary methods that Puritan writers employed to construct a coherent captivity narrative. As the latter authors 20 American Literature 43, no. 4 (1972): 562.
9 21 The spiritual autobiography and the sermon were just a couple of devices the Puritan employed. Perhaps mo st significantly, the authors argue that the captivity narrative owes much of its tone and content to jeremiads, what Vaughan and Clark backsliding from the high ideals 22 While this source as a whole is more concerned with language and style, the claims point to an understanding that one's culture affects the perception of and response to the experience. Historians have focused on the relationship between author and reader and personal and community experience to emphasize different ideological uses to which the Puritan captivity narrative wa s put. R. Slotkin, for instance, has written much on the subject: captivity narratives a re the focus of two of his books, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier 1600 1860 (1973) and Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America (1992). According to Slotkin, the captive's act of resisting the physical threats and spiritual temptations of the Indians meant a vindication of both their moral character and the values they symbolize d 23 Furthermore, Indian captivity and victimization by the wilderness was the hardest and most costly (a nd therefore, the most noble) way of discovering the will of God in respect to one's soul, one's election or one's damnation. The captivity narrative thus has an aptness in expressing the Puritan's anxieties about their social and spiritual position. 24 Pu ritans had left England voluntarily and now had to resist, to the best of their ability, the tendency to acculturate to the Indian way of life fostered by the wilderness. 21 Vaughan and Clark, 4. 22 Ibid, 7. 23 Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America (1992), 15. 24 Slotkin (1973), 98.
10 Their scripture and experience had taught them that struggle and temptation was a pr ocess present at every stage of life. 25 Slotkin's variety of work revealed the personal nature of the captivity narrative: psychological rescue from the devil, but for mos t captives the latter was either incomplete 26 While the captivity narrative was integral to the individual's sense of their religious status, Slotkin says it exemplifies a tension between the individual nature ive ideology called forth in such accounts. K. Derouian qualifies Slotkin's analysis between psychology and the intended meaning of the captivity narrative by analyzing evidence of trauma in Mary Rowlandson's chronicle. Derouian specifically concludes that Rowlandson tried to to conform to Puritan doctrine of providential affliction. 27 She thus had the responsibility of transforming her personal experience into public ide ology. This confirms the extent to which the Puritan ethos affected secular consequences of colonization. The Puritan ethos dictates the captivity narrative while society puts pressure on the narrative to encompass the ethos. Sewell exemplifies this poin t as he argues that the captivity account of Mary Jemison was transformed from an oral history to a story of Puritan culture simply by being transcribed and published by a literate editor. 28 s how the captivity narrative relates its ideological message to the community at large. Citing the 25 Bercovitch, 48. 26 Slotkin (1973), 128. 27 Derounian, 83. 28 D. R. Sewell A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 53.
11 example of Mary Rowlandson, Jeffords argues that it was not physical violation, but rather spiritual violation, that was the primary concern for the captiv e. Conversion or lack of faith was depicted as the real disaster of captivity, and salvation meant maintaining one's faith in the face of severe hardship. The colonial religious culture made a singular Puritan community, and hence the fears of the captiv e were more easily capable of encompassing the entire community's fears. If members of the community 29 The fears of the captivity narrative are key to understanding how Puritans perceived the stabilizatio n and continuation of The concern of D. Ebersole has been why such captivity narratives enjoyed level, he argues popularity was sustained by people's sheer desire to know the captives' experiences. More significantly though, these narratives were filled with stereotypical scenes and characters that established a colonial sense of culture. D. Ebers are the instantly recognizable representations of overlapping racial, sexual, nation, ethnic, economic, social, political, and religious categories. They convey enormous amounts of cultural information in an extremely condensed 30 These experiences, while foreign to the reader, were understood against established rules of Puritan society. The captivity tale in this context can be viewed as a vehicle of moral improvement or spiritual instruction. Overall, they allowed set tlers to raise pressing questions concerning theodicy, identity, and the meaning of suffering. 31 29 Cultural Critique, no 19 (Fall, 1991): 206. 30 Ebe rsole, 11 12. 31 Ibid, 12.
12 r political ends. Mary Rowlandson's narrative serves as a prime example. While A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson was immediately popular when it first appeared in 1682, going through four editions that year, its appeal soon declined as it was only republished once in 1720. However, in 1770, it was republished three times. Its popularity continued, as it was republished once again in 1771 and twice more in 1773. All of these editions, except one, were published in Bos ton, a city that was the Townshend Acts. G. Sieminski argues that the repeatedly reprinted Puritan narratives shaped public opinion concerning specific political event s of the pre 32 G. Sieminski uses primary evidence to convey how publishers desired the captivity narrative to be understood by the public at large. Figure 1 shows the tit le page of the 1773 edition of Mary Rowlandson's narrative. Printed by John Boyle, the edition included a woodcut made specifically for its title page. The cut depicted four Indians lined up shoulder to shoulder, three aiming muskets and the fourth wield ing a tomahawk at Rowlandson, who stood outside her home with her own musket leveled at her attackers. The inaccuracy of the woodcut is not a mere consequence of artistic liberty, but was a result of the Revolutionary context. 32 American Quarterly, 42, no. 1 (March, 1990): 37.
13 Figure 1: Title Page of 17 73 Edition of Mary Rowlandson's Narrative Rowlandson, in the narrative itself, described the Indians' method of attacking her house house], others into the barn, and others behind anything that could shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail. 33 The line formation, and even the coat like garments, is more characteristic of British regulars than Indians. In addition, nowhere did Rowlandson suggest that she carried a firearm, much less that she actively participated in the defense of her home. In fact, Rowlandson 33 Rowlandson, 4.
14 34 According to Sieminski, the Indians in the scene had been refigured as a tyrannic authority and Rowlandson seemed to represent a courageous defender of liberty. 35 The Captivity Narrative and the New American Nation The Puritan captivity narrative was adapted and used in the eighteenth and ni neteenth centuries to confront issues in America's new national identity. The metaphor of captivity, for instance, allowed colonists to claim they were imprisoned by savage Britain which fueled enthusiasm for rebellion just prior to the American Revolutio n. The captivity narrative would further provide the context for a frontier mythology, in which an American hero emerged who mediated the relationship between civilization and savagery. Finally, during the nineteenth century, the captivity narrative gave abolitionists a medium to frame the imprisonment and enslavement of African Americans. This section will thus examine how the Puritan captivity narrative informed revolution, pioneering, and abolition ideologies. The religious enthusiasm of the Pu ritan captivity narrative faded, and captivities became secular, patriotic tales crucial to the formation of American identity. While the metaphor of captivity informed the pre war culture in important ways as the latter section revealed it became a more vital metaphor during the war itself when numerous Americans actually endured captivity. The prisoner of war (POW) narratives of the American Revolution thus marked the transition of captivity from civilian in Indian captivity to soldiers in military capt ivity. Ethan Allen, writing an account of his captivity with the British in 1778, follows the structure of Puritan captivity narratives but replaces 34 Ibid. 35 Sieminski, 42.
15 the savage Indian captor with the cruel British. This is made explicit as Allen declares his work to be 36 This narrative is significant because it is Allen's patriotism, rather than his religiosity, that is se verely tested. Ethan Allen's use of the Puritan captivity narrative defined American culture in terms of what it had rejected, rather than what it had become. The British were described not as merely evil, but savage in similar ways that Indians were d visage was beyond all description; snake's eyes appear innocent in comparison to his...malice, death, murder, and the wrath of devils and damned spirits are the emblems of his counte 37 The rejection of the British and what was perceived as tyrant rule the British would have done if they could...and to exile every honest man to stand forth in the defense of liberty, and to establish the indepe ndency of the United States of America 38 In this sense, Allen's narrative endorsed the colonists' desire to regain captivity narrative during the Revolutionary 39 As the early American national identity became dependent on expansion, there ntures of century narrative that built upon the captivity 36 Quoted in Slotkin (1973), 251. 37 Quoted i n Sieminski, 47. 38 Ibid, 49. 39 Sieminski, 36.
16 narrative to establish a frontier myth. In this narrative, Daniel Boon journeys through the rugged wilderness and reaches the unexplored area of what would become Kentucky. Over the course of the narrative, Boone experiences two captivities among the Shawnee Indians. Here, he masters skills which earn him the respect of his captors and allow him to triumph over the wilderness. Whereas the Puritan captivity narrative believed that God used Indians as instruments to inflict punishment of sinful individuals/communities, this 40 Acceptance of Indian culture was thu s heretical for the Puritans, while family where I became a son, and had great share in the affection of my new parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. 41 The frontier narrative followed the Puritan narrative framework, where captivity was understood as a means to an end. Puritans believed that captivity in the wilderness could result in ultimate redemption and the attainment of a new soul. The frontier narrative sugge power nature has to sustain civilization. The frontier narrative ultimately asserts that Boone has rational control over his environment following captivity, which promotes agrar ian ideologies. In one passage Boone states: What thanks...are due to that all superintending providence which has turned cruel war into peace, brought order out of confusion, made the fierce savages placid, and turned away their hostile weapons from out c ountry!...Let peace descending from her native heaven, bid her olives spring amid the joyful nations. 42 Captivity gave Boone the means to cultivate the wilderness which, as this passage 40 Quoted in Slotkin (1973), 293. 41 Ibid, 287. 42 Ibid, 294.
17 reveals, brought him to connect agrarian morality with Enlightenme nt ideals of peace and order. Through this myth, American national progress was defined by the land and its resources that were to be cultivated. Later in the nineteenth century, the captivity narrative shifted to an abolitionist ideology. Lemuel Haynes' Mystery Developed (1820) specifically used the Puritan narrative framework to describe slavery in captivity terms. This narrative included Hayn 43 This sermon imprisoned falsely fo r the death of their sister's husband), but it also gave Haynes a platform to discuss slavery more generally. Initially, Haynes understood slavery in terms taught that th ere is a superintending providence that directs all events; that the works of God are great and marvelous, and past finding out. The goodness of the Almighty is 44 This narrative, however, was similar to Ethan Allen's account because the Indian captor was replaced. In Puritan captivity narratives, the captors are Indians operating outside the authority and legal codes of white society, while in Haynes's narrative, the captors are representatives of white society. Haynes's narrative altered the captor of the Puritan captivity narrative, but still used its framework to understand God's will. Like the Puritans, Haynes believed that God providentially used evil as a means of good, just as the Crucifixion was used as the means of Atonem ent. The context of slavery, though, meant that Haynes interpreted 43 Early American Literature 29, no. 2(1994) 123. 44 Quoted in Saillant, 126.
18 God's will as a means of achieving liberty, not necessarily religious is anointed to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bou 45 Haynes thus believed that God's ultimate goal was a liberal and Republican society free of enslavement. The examples in this section, overall, reveal how the captivity narrative could evolve and be modified depending on the cultural need they serve d. Conclusion This chapter examined the captivity narrative from its first inception through the developed into a captivity genre whose popularity revealed undeni able cultural significance. Colonial ministers used captivity narratives to warn the general public not to stray from religious purity. Revolutionaries used captivity narratives to justify a rejection of British tyranny. Captivity played a role in the f ormation of the frontier myth, in which Americans defined their destiny in terms of the wilderness that was to be cultivated along agrarian lines. Finally, African Americans and abolitionists used captivity narratives as the ultimate symbol of slavery and creation of an equal society. The captivity narrative, overall, was crucial to defining an in the wilderness, the tyrant king, the ma ster/slave relationship. Being widely popular, tales of captivity and their deviations helped shape a distinct American culture, as they ideologies. cussed in this chapter, though, was either non existent or in the 45 Ibid, 126 127.
19 beginning stages of nationhood. The remaining chapters of this thesis will look at American captivities during the twentieth century, when different national concerns framed the cultural re ception of these narratives. The second chapter analyzes the Vietnam POW captivity narrative and its function within Cold War ideologies of American identity. The third chapter examines how the mass media defined the captivity narrative of the Iranian ho stage crisis. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the captivity narrative reveals how Americans can work to defend and articulate a singular national same. Finally, th is thesis concludes that this captivity narrative represents a dominate perspective, one that has often been challenged by marginal voices. The conclusion analyzes how these marginal narratives complicate the idea of a singular American identity.
20 Chapter Two The POW Captivity Narrative and the Cold War of war life in a communist country to emphasize the importance of religion and patriotism in one's life, and we made love of God and our country the paramount 46 -Larry Chelsey, Vietnam POW The captivity narrative in the twentieth century was resurrected during the Cold War through the prisoner of war experience. The POW captivity narrative, like the original captivity narrative, worked ideologically t o confirm a collective sense of national 47 In this case, the narrative served to affirm a distinct American set of values in the midst of a troubled climate of the Cold War when Americans seeme d so deeply anxious about their values. The intense polarization of the world between the United States and the Soviet Union thus created a dynamic and a new set of needs to defend and articulate an American identity. This chapter evaluates the role of t he Vietnam POW captivity narrative in formulating that identity. This chapter will first situate the POW experience within the different tensions confronting American nationalism. The ultimate challenge to the faith in American national identity, thoug h, was the loss of the Vietnam War, and the POW captivity narrative ultimately worked to reconstitute the war as a moral victory. Three essential features of the Vietnam narrative served this end: prisoner status was defined by the loss of American freedo the individual experience was promoted as representative of America's experience. Finally, the Vietnam POW captivity narrative will be analyzed against new social and 46 L. Chelsey, Seven Years in Hell: A POW Tells His Story (Utah: Bookcraft, 1973), 21. 47 See B. Anderson, Imagined Communities:Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso Books, 2006).
21 national tensions follo wing the Vietnam War. Overall, the image of the Vietnam POW 48 because it promoted faith in a unified American belief system, even when various values w ere socially under attack at home and abroad. Nationalism and the POW Experience The most salient feature of the Vietnam POW narrative was its strident nationalism that existed which can be seen in a number of examples. Air Force Major Ronald Webb, for i nstance, implicitly defined the American nation in terms of its culture against our country, against our way of life, against America basically. And the natural reaction 49 In Imagined Communities, B. Anderson examines the language used to describe the love for one's country, concluding that national traits are those that denote something naturally way, nation ness is assimilated to skin color, gender, parentage, and birth era all those 50 Webb's understanding, though, significantly broadened captivity narrative, like the original narrative, gave Americans a means to define their national identity in terms of their cultural identity. American nati onalism was intensely important, and for the American soldier it was often understood in terms of life and death. The POW captivity narrative, for 48 J. Hellmann, American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2986), ix. 49 NYT April 30, 1973. 50 Anderson, 143.
22 instance, often conveyed nationalism as a crucial element in maintaining one's will to live. In the forwar d to Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, John McCain (a POW country, God, and fellow prisoners kept our dream of freedom alive, making life worth living despite freedom 51 An anecdote of Commander Claude Clower in the New York Times notion. It is reported that the Commander once received a package from his wife containing a washcloth that had a flower design which resembled the American flag. daily. 52 America was ultimately seen to represent freedom. American POWs used metaphors, symbols, and other representations to describe their national identity as it was challenged by the outside. Both James Mulligan and 53 The captive eagle signifies both temporary imprisonment in North Vietnam as well as the more complex psychological legacy of that experience. The image of the eagle is also chosen because it stands for America the suffering of the POW signifies the suffering of the American nation. Mulligan then specifically explains his feeling that, 54 This implies that, while chained and not free, America can potentially lose any abilities that come with its superpower status. These symbols ultimately defined the POW in terms of a rallying p oint: America and the POW are 51 Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson T. Philpott (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001), xi. The emphasis is mine. 52 S. Roberts. 53 E. Alvarex and A. S. Pitch, Chained Eagle (New York: Donald Fine, 1989). 54 J. Mulligan, The Hanoi Commitment (Virginia: RIF Marketing), 14.
23 chained and the narrative thus calls for action. Since faith in American freedom and liberty gave so many POWs the will to live, the American nation must also solidify its morals and embrace resurgence in patriotism. The POW narrative also promoted American nationalism through the Christian redemption metaphor. When employed, this representation closely mirrored the original Indian captivity narrative. Eugene McDaniel's narrative is one prime example of employing this speci fic feature. Following a discussion of the apostle Paul and the love 55 As the commentary have led me here, let me get shot down, that I might now enter into the totality of what it 56 For McDaniel, the sole purpose of the prisoner punishment w 57 The returning POW in this context came to represent the United States emerging from Metaphors used in the POW captivity narrative further reveal how the experience of captivity was understood as representative of the state of the nation. Robinson Risner, for instance, e 55 N. McDaniel and J. Johnson, Before Honor: One Man's Spiritual Journey through the Darkness of a Communist Prison (New York: A. J. Holman, 1975) 173. 56 Ibid., 120. 57 E. Gruner, Prisoners of Culture: Re presenting the Vietnam POW (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993), 153.
24 ou tried by fire as threatening to the sanctity of American identity, and by slaying the dragon, America 58 The Vietnam POW captivity narrative can also be implicitly understood in terms of the jeremiad metaphor. Prominent during Indian captivity, this representation saw the captivity experience as a curse or a trial imposed on an individual or population by an angry God. Following the Korean War, for instance, Americans believed that POWs had tried to escape and as many as a third of the pri soners were accused of collaborating with the enemy. 59 The Vietnam POW experience lived in the shadow of Korean POWs, who were culturally denounced for not upholding American values. While the metaphor at this historical point was not necessarily religiou s, the Vietnam POW experience can be As different groups vocalized concern for POWs, the matter of character and values clearly entered the national consciousness. The debate regarding the Korean POW was significant in this development which contributed to the jeremiad metaphor and thus the historical context of the Vietnam captivity narrative. Journalist Eugene Kinkead believed that the POW conduct was indicative of faults in the American character, faults 58 R. Risner, The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese (New York: Ballantine, 1975), vi vii. 59 R. Robin, Making the Cold War Enemy, Culture a nd Politics in the military Intellectual Complex (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001), 162.
25 culture standard of living in the 60 Army psychologist Major William Mayer also explained this perception of weakness in terms of culture: materialistic values arguably had created a fragile modern army. Mayer believed that American soldiers in Korea lacke on to place special emphasis on gender when explaining the weak soldier. Referencing who has been brought up largely by his mother alone, a boy who has become what in psychiatry we refer to as a dependent 61 These critics saw the American character as weak, and subsequently saw the American nation as weak. On the other side of the debate, it was not the American national character to be highlight different Cold War anxieties that the Vietnam capt ivity narrative would confront. American officials, for instance, speculated that communists had developed a form of psychiatric manipulation that would reprogram the thoughts, beliefs, and values of defenseless victims. Journalist Edward Hunter's articl e Brainwashing in Red China popularized the term. Ritual of Liquidation (1954), a study of public political trials in the Soviet Union of the 1930s, provided the scientific rational for the brainwashing concept. The author, Nathan Leites, implied that th e act of embracing communism was in itself abnormal, most likely the result of a powerful strategy to overcome the mental defense 60 E. Kinkead, Why They Collaborated? (London: Longmans, 1960), 18. 61 U.S. News and World Report (February 24, 1956), 65 72.
26 mechanisms of normal human beings. 62 Henry Laughlin, president of the Washington Psychiatric Society, claimed that brainwashin dialectic materialism, which are...an integral part of psychological thinking in the Soviet 63 Culturally, the issue of brainwashing was directly addressed in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). 64 Here, the fictional Raymond Shaw is brainwashed in a Korean POW camp to become a political assassin. His mother, secretly a communist operator, controls her son's actions hoping that he will assassinate the presidential candidate of the United States, thus promotin g his vice president step father to the top position. Raymond, though, eventually overcomes his brainwashing and foils the plot. The film is significant in that it promotes the idea that Americans are not safe from the communist brainwashing threat. Acc 65 This point reveals the extent to which anxiety defined the era. This debate surrounding the Korean POW provides a concrete example of how national identity was understood within a Cold War context. In an era where a peoples' onalism, Americans had to definitively confront and outline their virtues once American character came under attack. In response to the latter attacks on POWs and their character, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1954, devised guidelines for Americans i n captivity known as the Code of Conduct. This Code outlined the American's commitment to resistance in captivity. The 62 Robin, 168. 63 H. Laughlin, cited in Robin, 168. 64 Manchurian Candidate, The, Directed by John Frankenheimer (MGM), 1962. 65 M. Rogin, cited in Robin, 170.
27 of how the love of one's country and fellow Americans is a central component of POW character. Nationalism here is thus concerned with the individual, the community, and country as a whole. The marine captiv Pueblo anxieties regarding American identity that framed the historical context of the Vietnam War. On January 23, 1968, an American intelligence ship was roughly three miles outside of North Korean t erritorial waters when eighty two crew members were taken prisoner. The incident was considered a national embarrassment because the entire crew surrendered without resistance. According to skipper Commander Lloyd Bucher, the ship was not equipped to off er resistance, and its crew would have suffered death had any been attempted. 66 Despite this claim, the POWs were accused of being cowardly, even though they experienced inhumane treatment. While this incident challenged the faith in capable American resi stance, the Code of Conduct would ensure that the ideology would remain ideal in the formation of national identity. Consequently, the Vietnam POWs would become instant heroes because they indulged resistance while actively promoting The Vietnam captivity narrative strongly mirrors the structure of other POW narratives as well as initial Puritan accounts. While each individual maintains their unique experience, the struc tures reveal patterns regarding the methods in which the 66 R. Bruhite, Lives at Risk: Hostages and Victims in American Foreign Policy (Delaware: SR Books, 1995) 137.
28 knowledge of captivity is understood and conveyed. Similar to the Puritan pattern of separation, transformation, and redemption, Vietnam POWs also distinguished the stages of their captivity: precap ture, capture, remove, resistance, release, lament. In regards to the historical context, the American POW in Vietnam also had to deal with inhumane treatment, confront conflicting ideologies now represented by the anti war movement, and overall had to ju stify the defeat inherent in captivity. American nationalism was most significantly challenged by the loss of the Vietnam War, and thus, the Vietnam captivity narrative has three distinct features that attempt to give America a moral victory: prisoner st promoted against evil Communism; and the individual experience was representative of America's experience. While the American POW in Vietnam framed his experiences need for a unified national pride and identity during the Cold War. The liberal narrative of modernization that developed in the twentieth century allowed POWs to frame national identity in term s of industrialization, rational social order, and political democratization. 67 This framework meant that as soldiers entered Firstly, the narrative conveyed the Vietnam ese environment as crucially foreign as opposed to modern, industrialized America. Most Vietnam POWs in the North were air men from the Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force so the captivity experience actually put them in the environment. Eugene McDaniel exp licitly discusses the dilemma the jungle is soon aware of its immensity, its gigantic suffocating encirclement, its relentless 67 Robin, 30.
29 squeeze on life systems that depend on a 68 Konrad Trautman can only make sense of his experience, comparing Vietnam with a trip in a time machine, appearance and their dress, their co nduct especially, and the tools that they used to beat 69 Captivity also disrupted the POW's understanding of social order. Through describing Al Stafford, Geoffrey Norman directly distinguished the social status of the ike Stafford was one of seventy six men on a ship with a crew of some four thousand. The mission of every member of that crew was, ultimately, to keep the seventy 70 The POW captivity narrative thus implicitly promotes liberal and modern ization ideals as the experience is given meaning. status feature of the captivity narrative was also framed in terms of what national liberties and material privileges the POW lost. These losses only reinforced the idea that modern ideologies. From some perspectives, the transition to prisoner was marked by loss of physical possessions. Geoff rey Norman, for instance, discusses losing his clothes, armor, 71 dollar 72 Both of thes e prisoners also framed their losses in terms of intangible concepts. Plumb importantly states that he has lost his rank and prestige, losses that have 68 McDaniel, 25. 69 C. Howes, Voices of the Vietnam POWs: Witnesses to Their Fight (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) 129. 70 G. Norman, Bouncing Back: How a Heroic Band of POWs Survived Vietnam (Massachus etts: Hoghton Mifflin, 1990), 45. 71 Ibid., 44 45. 72 C. Plumb and G. DeWerf, i'm no hero (Missouri: Independence Press, 1973) 281
30 73 Norman argues that he has lost his security, a security that h 74 One gets the idea that these possessions were not interpreted as mere possessions, but were understood as inherent American rights. American belief systems were affirmed as POWs addressed their most significant loss democracies. These liberal individualist rights were considered to be sacrosanct in American culture. Historically, the treatment of POWs in captivity has been a critical legal issue. In 1929, after the technological horror of World War I, members at the eveal the pitfalls of the plan. One can see the issue simply in terms of POW death rates. According to Robert Doyle, of the 4,120 American POWs captured during World War I, 147 died in captivity. World War II witnessed 130,200 American POWs, 14,072 of w hich died. This death rate, though, becomes more significant when one realizes that 78,773 Americans are still listed as missing in action (MIA) and are not statistically included. 75 Following World War II, the international community would define war c riminals understanding of the Vietnam POW experience. The 1946 Nuremberg Principles other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecution on political, 73 Ibid. 74 Norman, 44 45. 75 R. Doyle, Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1994), 24 25.
31 76 The publication goes on to specify that these crimes against humanity also apply when they are connecting to any war crime, which extends the principles to POWs. The Geneva Convention of 1949 upheld these concerns while also explicitly defining who qualified as a POW. Figure 2: Hanoi March before the guards lost control. While in previous wars enemies blatantly defied the rules governing the treatment of POWs, the Vietnamese claimed to follow the Geneva Convention framework. The Vietnamese, though, specifically and strategically attempted to denounce American POWs as war criminals in order to justify the harsh treatment. On July 6, 1966, fi fty two prisoners from two Vietnam POW camps were taken to a sports stadium in downtown by two into a waiting crowd flanked by red scarved guards. The crowd eventually grew restless, and as 77 affair to the 76 Principles reproduced in Doyle, 53 54. 77 Quoted in S. Rochester and F. Kiley, Honor Bound: American prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961 1973 (Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2007), 197.
32 trials. 78 The ploy, however, backfired as the footage showed the prisoners trying to protect their dignity and safety under assault from the mob crowd. Whi le the global reaction consequently meant that the Vietnamese would not hold criminal trials, the endeavor revealed that POWs' past and future treatment was in the hands of an inhumane enemy. The Vietnam POW captivity narrative bluntly conveys the loss of legal status, situating the Vietnamese as outside the bonds of civility and law. Norman McDaniel, for instance, describes his initial capture experience. Stating that they made him strip his d me...When I mentioned the Geneva Convention, they laughed in my face.'You're not qualified to be treated as a 79 Fred Cherry's what I was supposed to do. Name, rank, serial number, date of birth. And I started talking about the Geneva 80 All together, this feature of prisoner status implicitly praises the legal rights American society gives its population. The transition from soldier to prisoner is radical and thus, the sacrifices are also radical. By polarizing their experiences in terms of good versus bad, legal versus illegal, moral versus immoral, the American POW in Vi etnam could promote American national traits as benevolent since the Communist ideologies that opposed them were evil, lawless, etc. Beyond the issue of legality, a few POWs used the recent memory of the Holocaust 78 Gruner, 15. 79 N. McDaniel, in W. Terry Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (New York: Ballantine, 1985), 134. 80 F. Cherry, in Terry, 266 91.
33 to highlight the contrast between America n commitment to natural rights and the barbarism of the Vietnamese. In P.O.W.:Two Years with the Vietcong (1971), George 81 This lit kinship with Holocaust victims in the final chapter of his book. Here, he describes an episode that particularly moved him: Lou, Tom and I proceeded from the aircraft to a small Operations building amid a barrage of flashbulbs and questions from indistinct faces behind outthrust microphones. I do remember one man who broke from the crowd and came up beside me, grasping my should 82 him a vehicle to express the significance of his own pain and suffering. The comparisons to the Holocaust cast the POW experience in terms of ultimate human injustice against law abiding Americans. From this perspective, the soldier could solely be the victim, despite the paradox that these men were actively fighting a war before imprisonment. POWs were thus able to rationalize this aspect. For the pilot, air to 83 Somewhat separated from their combat positions, the POWs could connect themselves to a victim status. Lieut. Col. Leo Thorsness claims that even though he felt 84 ust, the 81 G. Smith, P.O.W.: Two Years with the Vietcong (California: Ramparts Press, 1971), 155. 82 J. Rowe, Fiv e Years to Freedom, (New York: Ballantine, 1984), 461. 83 Risner, 117. 84 S. Roberts.
34 captors are evil and immoral. Similar to the Puritan captivity narrative, the Vietnam narrative spoke of the individual POW experience in larger, national terms. Gerald Coffee argues that every he commitment, the effort, and what the government and people of South Vietnam, millions of people in the other countries of Southeast Asia are thrivin g in relatively free and democratic societies today because of 85 Clearly, what Coffee accomplished as an individual is equitable to what the nation as a whole accomplished. When the American POW redeemed his or h er own experience, America was subsequently redeemed. While POWs generally did not go as far as Coffee did, in terms of a literal victory, many were able to be positive in terms of their time and commitment. POW Geoffry Norman outlines this bluntly in an interview arguing that his years were 86 Jay Jensen, in his autobiography Six Years in Hell, also situates triumph into stepping stones of progress. I ret 87 Like the original captivity narrative, in several 85 S. Coffee. Beyond Survival: Building on the Hard Times a POW's Inspiring Story (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1990), 285. 86 Norman, 238. 87 Mulligan, 279.
35 instances the POWs equate t heir individual experience with the experience of America, redeemed. While the American POW in Vietnam framed his experience against the Communist other, the captivity narra tive is most significant when framed against the context of the era's fragmented American nationalism. If individuals find guilt intolerable 88 The captivity narrative allows American cultu re to cope with its loss in the Vietnam War by repositioning the experience as a moral victory. Fundamentally, POWs praise the core American beliefs and virtues of freedom as inherent rights, not mere gifts. The Vietnamese are framed as inherently evil, meaning that the ideologies that oppose them are inherently good. The POW is the ultimate victim whose own redemption prescribes American redemption. This moral victory was thus dependent on the belief in different American morals and freedoms, and overa ll, these values confronted domestic concerns: America as chained, America's need to be redeemed, and America facing a dragon to be slain. John McGrath, for instance, explains how the POW issue could unite a fragmented country: On only a few issues were the American people united. One of these was the emotion charged issue of the POWs and MIAs. After the peace treaties were signed and the POWs began arriving on American soil, the entire nation was stirred as the POWs spoke he artfelt words of praise, thanks and patriotism instead of words of cynicism and condemnation that so many citizens had become accustomed to hearing directed against their country. 89 Following the Vietnam War, however, new tensions would arise that the Vi etnam POW 88 in From Hanoi to Hollywood ed. By L. Dittmar and G. Michaud (New Jersey: Rutgers University press, 1990), 102. 89 J. McGrath, Prisoner of War: Six Years in Hanoi (Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1975), 108 109.
36 image would culturally address. The POW Image Continues The years following the Vietnam War witnessed a fundamental shift in public opinion regarding the POW, which transformed the captivity narrative and how it reinforced American nationalism. During the war, for instance, there were antiwar activists who refused to believe that POWs were tortured. Others, like Jane Fonda, believed that this torture was somehow justified. Commenting to Newsweek reporters, bably torture of POW's. Guys who misbehaved and treated their guards in a racist fashion or tried to escape were tortured. Some [U.S.] pilots were beaten to death by the people they had bombed when they parachuted from their planes. But to say that torture was systematic and the policy of the North 90 This sentiment, however, would be challenged as the captivity narrative positioned the POW as the ultimate victim. Within a decade, public opinion would actually denounce tho se who protested against the war, perhaps signifying the success of the POW captivity narrative. A 1979 Lou Harris survey asked people to rate their feelings toward different groups of people on tured and held prisoner in received an average score of 9.8. Veterans of World War II or Korea were not far behind 90 Newsweek April 16, 1973: 51.
37 91 Figure 3: Rambo frees crucified POW This representat ion of public opinion, in which the POW is praised while skepticism is directed toward the government and the antiwar movement, was expressed in the cultural artifact Rambo: First Blood Part II. This fictional account gave John Rambo the mission to rescue Stallone, this singular 92 Once in Vietnam, Rambo is introduced to Murdoch, who represents the bureaucratic government in the film. Rambo is told that his mission is to only get photographi c evidence that the POWs are alive; he is in no way supposed to rescue any men. Rambo: First Blood Part II like the POW captivity narrative, addresses the ideological conflicts that exist domestically. In one scene the character Co questions why Rambo left the army. Rambo responds that when he returned, there was another war 91 Survey cited in Jeffords (1988), 533. 92 June 6, 1985.
38 cter, presumably, has lost faith in America, considering the current political and cultural environment. While the film acknowledges this assault on Vietnam veterans, the imagery of the film works to promote the image of the POW veteran as benevolent. Fi gure 3, for instance, shows Rambo freeing a crucified POW, evoking the imagery of Christ. Once Murdoch discovers that Rambo has freed a POW, Rambo is abandoned and the true mission is revealed. In one specific scene, Murdoch aggressively explains that th finance a war against our allies. From this point on, Rambo must face the enemy both mission and set him up to fail. But they made one mistake. They forgot they were dealing w 93 Throughout the movie Rambo, usually with underdeveloped weaponry, kills every Vietnamese or Soviet enemy he comes across. This intense revenge ultimately demonstrates that communists can and should be defeated. Surprisingly enough, Rambo at the end of the film confronts Murdoch only with fear. Rambo declares that there are enemy out of Murdoch (and subsequently the government), Murdoch is still an Ame rican, a trait that accordingly makes him worthy of life while all other enemies in the movie are 93
39 ho came over here and split his guts, and gave everything he had wants. For our country to love us up American patriotism, now demanding responsibility of the nation to hold to the values its people are willing to die for. Rambo's patriotism is thus significant because he desires to be loved by a country that has caused him so much suffering. The America Rambo loves, though, is more a matter of hope or memory than fact. 94 In 1985, Newsweek 95 Because myths are the images a society gives itself, Rambo: First Blood Part II like the Vietnam captivity narrative, attempts to solve s eemingly irresolvable social contradictions. Rambo can love his country but despise his government; the POW can perpetuate war while still being the victim. Ultimately, the traditional belief system of America can be promoted even when such values are so cially under attack. 94 Waller, 122. 95 Ibid., 118.
40 Chapter Three The Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Captivity Narrative divisions, but this has shown that we are essentially Americans. It's given us confidence Richard McQueen, Iranian Hostage Crisis Hostage 96 The Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 also gave rise to another American captivity narrative, which played a decisive role in shaping national identity duri ng the 1980s. The crisis took place when Iranian students and militants took fifty two members of the American embassy hostage in support of the Iranian Revolution. Revolutionaries had overthrown the pro American Shah, and the hostage crisis was triggere d by President Carter's decision to allow the Shah to enter the U.S. to receive American medical attention. Following a decade of general skepticism driven by events such as the loss of the Vietnam War, the OPEC oil crisis, and the Watergate scandal, the Iranian hostage crisis narrative worked, like the previous two cases, to rally American nationalism around this new threat. As Americans mourned the hostages, a unified American public became visible. In this later case, because the crisis developed in a n age with an established and growing mass media, the hostage crisis captivity narrative was constructed by public news coverage rather than hostages themselves. The Vietnam captivity narrative confronted Cold War anxieties by reconstituting the Vietnam W ar as a moral victory, and by defending an American national identity through modern and liberal character. The Iranian hostage narrative would build upon this and outline specific characteristics that defined American identity while confronting skepticis m regarding America's political capabilities. In this case, the narratives that 96 People Magazine, February 9, 1981: 39.
41 evolved dehistoricized the context of the crisis to suggest that Iranian revolutionaries specifically attacked the core identities of people defined as American: nonpolitical, private, family oriented individuals. This chapter will ultimately analyze the role the mass media played, both directly and indirectly, in creating these national identities. The Iranian Hostage Crisis and the American National Image The Iranian Host age Crisis, from the very outset, was understood in terms of national concern and a challenge to American identity. It was November 4, 1979 when several Iranian students overtook the U.S. embassy and ABC immediately sent in reporter Bob Dyk to cover the e vent. The CBS and NBC networks hesitated, which proved to be incredibly significant because Iran soon denied any media entrance into the country. 97 ABC thus had a monopoly for more than four days covering the initial takeover, and on November 8, 1979, th e network produced the night time news special The Crisis in Iran: America Held Hostage. The crisis was instantly understood, not as a simple conflict between Iranian students and American diplomats, but as a conflict between nations, as the subtitle sugg ested. As long as the embassy members were held hostage, America would be symbolically captive. In the case of the Iranian hostage crisis, television was a medium for representing the national public opinion that contributed to the national consciousne ss. According to Warren Christopher, President Carter's deputy secretary of state, the news coverage 98 Roone Arledge, 97 R. Donovan and R. Scherer, Unsilent Revolution: Television News and American Public Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 140. 98 W. Christopher, in American Hostages in Iran: The Conduct of Crisis, ed. By P. Kreisberg (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 26.
42 president of ABC news, conveyed this national consciousness when describing his 99 F or most Americans, the hostage crisis was a simple means of confronting the political status of their nation. As the mass media put images of American hatred and humiliation right in the homes of American citizens, the public was confronted with explicit needs to defend their identity. Figure 4. Iranian protestors burning an American flag outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran in late 1979. Anti American sentiment symbolically contributed to the national frame of the Iranian crisis. American Held Hostage showed Iranians burning Uncle Sam dolls, 99 D. Farber, Taken Hostage: The Iran Hostage Crisis and America's First Encounter with Radical Islam (New Jersey: Prince ton University Press, 2005), 155
43 burning American flag, shown in Figure 4, became the most visible symbol of the crisis overall. The Iranians thus saw the people i nside the embassy as representing the United States as well, and concerned Americans watching the nightly news understood that the hatred was somehow directed towards them. 100 what they do to that flag, it just gets me 101 The mass media's portrayal of Iran's anti Americanism contributed to the prevailing national mood: outrage at the Iranians. Frank Reynolds of ABC spoke of anti e a cyclone 102 The anti American portrayals were interpreted as American humiliation. Images of the hostages blindfol ded, as shown in Figure 5, were a particular rallying point because they individualized the crisis. Figure 5. Hostages paraded in blindfolds by their captors in November 1979. 100 H. Saunders, in Kresiberg ed., 52. 101 America Held Hostage November 8, 1979. 102 ABC reports quoted in Donovan and Scherer, 142.
44 Robert Seigenhaler, then vice president of ABC news, directly made the connec tion: takers were rubbing our noses in it 103 Similar to the earlier captivity narratives, the use of tages' experience with America s ex perience. The Time's cover on November 19, 1979 pictured blindfolded hostages and captioned the -America is the Great Satan 104 This Khomeini quote would extremely condition Americans to believe that fundamentalist Islam was decidedly anti American. American hatred and feelings of humiliation created a need for Americans to defend their national political integrity. One government official arg ued that, as a result 105 Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to Carter, conveyed that the lives of the hostages, while precious and never to be sacrificed, were second ary to the larger national responsibility is to protect the honor and dignity of our country and its foreign policy interests. At some point, that greater responsibility could be more important than the 106 Carter himself would directly outline his two goals of the is to preserve the honor and integrity of our nati on and to protect its interests. That's 103 Quoted in Donovan and Scherer, 141. 104 International Studies Quarterly 44, no 1 (March 2000): 181. 105 Quoted in Bruhite, 181. 106 Ibid., 185.
45 never changed. And the second goal....is not to do anything...that would endanger the 107 The discourse regarding the political actions that led to the hostage crisis was mo stly concerned with the latter complexities of the American image. One government official justified America's actions of letting the Shah into America in terms of the perception of national image and identity, stating that it was America's credibility at stake: we were a friend in good times, and thus we needed to be a friend in bad times. 108 Reader's Digest argued that the world perceived America as a helpless giant on the world sta ge. 109 These renderings of America's decline and humiliation resemble Puritan obsessions with the dangers of weakness in the face of potential threats. Evans and Novak, for instance, implied that Carter's foreign policy had brought Khomeini to power, along with 110 As the hostage crisis unfolded, the mass media developed a captivity narrative that would work to praise American identities that stood in harsh contrast to the Iranian mobs. As prevalent in all captivity narratives, the Iranian hostage crisis defined fundamentally savage. For instance, when hostage Marine Sgt. Rodney Sickmann returned home, he remarked: 107 New York Times September 19, 1980. 108 The Presidents: Jimmy Carter http://video.pbs.org/video/1049390462 (accessed March 1, 2011). 109 Scott, 181. 110 Reader's Digest (1980): 106
46 111 Similar to the Vietnam narrative, the Iranians were further seen as uncivilized in terms of legality. CBS News correspondent Tom Fenton, for instance, was able to address the Iranian stu some of the hostages under Islamic law. Does Islamic law allow you to break into a man's house, to lock up his 112 Most importantly, Iranians were conveye d as evil others because they were defined by their religion that was seen as inherently violent. As the Iranian hostage captivity narrative defined Iranians by their supposedly violent religion, the discourse of terrorism would frame the image of the captors. Terrorists, and thus the Iranians, were understood in contrast to the American national [terrorism] is directed in an important sense against us, the democracies, against our most 113 Islam became, arguably, inherently tied to terrorism because of its fusion with the state and religion, something that was not characteristic of Christianity. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan explains in private citizen: The second feature [of terrorism], and vastly the more dangerous, is the principle that no one is innocent of politics. Terrorism denies the distinction between state and society, public and private, government and individual, the distinction that lies at the heart of liberal belief. For the terrorist, as for the totalitarian state, there are no innocent bystanders, no pri vate citizens. Terrorism denies that there is any private sphere, that individual have any rights or any autonomy separate from or 111 New Y ork Times, January 25, 1981. 112 B. Nacos, Terrorism and the Media: From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Oklahoma City Bombing (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 61. 113 Quoted in M. McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in t he Middle East Since 1945 (California: University of California Press), 218 19.
47 beyond politics. 114 Terrorism was important to American national identity because it defined the opposing while also being a national concern. On the day of the hostages' release in January 1981, for instance, President Ronald Reagan used his inaugural address to policy con cern. 115 Islam and terrorism would thus always be a threat to Americans and their way of life, which further meant the nation had to be defined in terms of political capability. The Iranian Hostage Captivity Narrative and American Identity The Iranian host age crisis captivity narrative addresses several complexities of American national identity. To begin with, the narrative worked to explicitly define what it meant to be an American. The hostages, and thus Americans, were portrayed as Christian, family o riented, non political individuals. The narrative then worked at a cultural level, where different collective acts that mourned the hostages signified a unified nation. Finally, the captivity narrative addressed national identity in terms of political ca pability. This section analyzes these aspects of the captivity narrative while self. The Iranian captivity narrative resembled the colonial narrative due to its stron g religious nature. According to scholar M. McAlister, the Iranian hostage crisis was unique because in no other political situation in the 1970s did mainstream media and 114 Ibid, 198. 115 Ibid, 199.
48 116 Presid ent Carter, for instance, attended a prayer service for the hostages in Washington's National Cathedral soon after the hostage taking. Americans were definitely attracted to Carter's Christian concern: in December 1979, his approval rating jumped from 30 to 61 percent. According to Newsweek, month leap in presidential popularity 117 At Christmas time, the official White House Christmas tree was decorated with lights that had been left unl it by the President to commemorate the hostages. Time noted: But over near the White House the nation's official Christmas tree is dark except for one star at the top, because the hostages in Iran have yet to receive the Christmas gift of freedom from the 118 119 Christianity, as in the original captivity narrative, became a constituent feature of Ame singer Pat Boone took up the airwaves. The mass media continuously reported about prayer sessions for the hostages across the country. In the New York Times article session at the National Cathedral. 120 ABC's December 21, 1979 America Held Hostage segment showed a young white marine, in full In this renditi 116 McAlister, 221 117 Donovan and Scherer, 145. 118 Scott, 185. 119 ABC News Decemnber 25, 1979. 120 New York Times, February 5, 1980.
49 new nations struggling against colonialism, but the entire American nation the hostages were seen to represent. 121 The anchor in the same newscast commented that Americans and Irani undoubtedly promoted a Christian America. The hostage crisis also promoted the sacred place o f private life and the nuclear family, characteristics tied to American identity. While many articles and evening broadcast segments explored different contextual circumstances of the Iranian crisis, reports on the hostages almost always treated them as i nnocent private citizens who simply got in harm's way. Overall, the mass media ignored or glossed over the professional responsibilities or governmental roles of the embassy inhabitants and instead situated them as family members. It has been argued that this was done intentionally to 122 Whatever the reason, the media usually portrayed each hostage as a fellow citizen, a regular American with fearful and worried f amily members. The American hostages were individualized and identified by their relationship to December, both the New York Daily News and Newsweek ran long articles about the hostages, featuring a picture of each person. 123 The American public could know the hostages personally. The pressure to report something new every day meant that the human drama of parents, wives, and children waiting for the hostages' return structured the news stories of Iranian demands and foreign policy comple xities. 121 McAlister, 212. 122 Ibid., 209. 123 Farber, 153.
50 totally transfixed before its television sets awaiting the latest predictable chants of 'Death to America' alternating with the day's interview with a brave r elative of one of the 124 Hostage families thus became a new kind of figure in American public life: they held their own press conferences, gave interviews, and attended commemorative events in their local communities. The family became a symbo l for American identity that valued the private, nonpolitical sphere. The New York Times, for instance, quoted Mrs. Maureen Timm, the understand government workings.. .I don't understand political things...[We] are here nonpolitical families, who were identified with the private sphere, emotions, and domesticity rather than diplomacy, officialdom, or politics. The symbolic family was also applied at community and national levels. In one New York Times article discussing happened here because this is a communit y that...had adopted the hostages and their 125 s one family, in concern and love, in 126 From this perspective, the nuclear family can be seen as a foundation to a collective American identity. A dehistoricizing Iranian hostage captivity narrative was key to constructing an Ame rican identity that favored the image of private families. When attempting to explain 124 McAlister, 207. 125 New York Times, November 4, 1980. 126 Farber, 152.
51 the context of the hostage situation, the mass media generally ignored the US Iranian historical relationship that inspired the hatred Iranian protestors conveyed. Most reporters explained the crisis in terms of sheer bewilderment. CBS anchor Walter 127 Other news casts convey only parts of th e story. ABC's America Held Hostage 128 In one New York Times article, it is stated that the President will not apologize to Iranians to free U.S. captives. The article, though, f ails to address what Iranians want America to apologize for, and then goes on to say that the border conflict between Iran and Iraq is probably the most significant source of the delay of hostage release. 129 Lastly, the mass media explained the Iranian host age crisis by completely ignoring any historical context, putting blame on Islam and terrorism. As the Iranian hostage captivity narrative was able to promote the belief in a collective American family, a unified public became highly visible. One America n, in his letter to the Editor of the Minneapolis Tribune, claimed that the crisis created a unified in the United States. These have ranged in tone from conciliato ry to violent. There is, however, a curious characteristic which is common to many of these otherwise diverse 130 Americans commonly expressed their concern for the hostages through different cultural symbol s. Six weeks into the crisis, Penne Laingen, the wife of embassy hostage Bruce Laingen, told the Post that 127 CBS Evening News, February 14, 1980. 128 ABC American Held Hostage 1989. 129 Gwetzman. 130 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general article/carter 444 text/ (Accessed March 1, 2011).
52 waiting and praying...and 131 In one New York Times 132 In the low ribbons popped up on trees, street lamps, telephone poles, and other inanimate objects. On Super Bowl Sunday, January 1980, a yellow ribbon was even wrapped around the entire stadium. Figure 6. 1980 Super Bowl stadium tied with yellow ribbon. Following the April 1980 failed rescue attempt of the hostages, the captivity narrative addressed national identity in terms of political capability. Americans were 131 Farber, 152. 132 Robbins.
53 frustrated over the seemingly endless crisis driven by what they conceived as a barbaric a nd uncivilized people. Americans thus sensed that their nation had lost its capability and the people in charge did not know what to do about it. Time magazine's story on the tactfully 133 The Washington Post's 134 Walter Cronkite of CBS had even adopted a new sign off of his evening ne ws program: 135 This daily reminder of the growing length of captivity was seemingly a call for capable action. While the original captivity narrative addressed issues in th e new nation's formation, the Iranian hostage narra tive clearly confronted America 's international status during this era. The captivity narrative revealed a national consciousness that demanded that the American nation be capable as a means to protect the identity of private, family oriented, and usually Christian life of Americans. Ronald Reagan, for instance, connected these mediocre leadership that drifts from on e crisis to the next, eroding our national will and purpose...We need a rebirth of the American tradition of leadership at every level of 136 The captivity narrative called for action against the national image of weakness, incapability, and ineptness. As a superpower, America must be capable in order to protect its private citizens, as the hostages 133 Quoted in Farber, 175. 134 Ibid. 135 Donovan and Sherer, 146. 136
54 represented. The Iranian Hostage Captivi ty Narrative in American Culture 137 The hostage captivity narrative was thus able to be culturally resilient because it was a strong metaphorical device for telling Americans about themselves and about other people. During the 1980s, for instance, hostage rescue films quickly became a staple of American action movies. When it became know that S. Stallone was preparing to star in Rambo III for instance, movie 138 This section wil l examine the 1986 action film The Delta Force a cultural artifact that portrays several themes evident in the Iranian hostage captivity narrative. the U.S. military's failed hostage rescue attempt. A helicopter is seen exploding, followed by rapid evacuation. Captain McCoy, played by Chuck Norris, later complains to his colonel about the poor planning of the hostage rescue attempt. The colonel initially hostage captivity narrative that are concerned with skepticism of government capability. The main plot of The Delta Force, however, is not concerned with the Iranian 137 American Journal of Semiotics 3, no. 2 (1984): 71. 138 New York Times, Februart 23, 1986.
55 hostage crisis but the 1985 TWA hijacking, in which an Athens New York flight was forced to fly to Beirut. The Iranian situation, though, does contribute a significant framework to the film: on at least four occasions, Captain McCoy or one of his comrades allowe understood as weak due to the hostage crisis, and now the characters set out to handle this hostage situation and will promote a more honorable national image. The Delta Forc e defines the hostages in terms of the nonpolitical family The passengers that are taken hostage specifically convey the private, family oriented identity that the captivity narrative holds dear to American nationalism. Prior to boarding the plane, the film in troduces the members and their connection to the family: two women go off to a shop, discussing stories of their grandchildren; two married couples discuss their families, one sharing that that they had just celebrated their twenty fifth wedding anniversa ry; one woman shows the other her wedding band. When the film ends with the rescue of these hostages, waiting families stand anxiously on the runway and are reunited with their loved ones. While the Iranian hostage captivity narrative addressed the nee d of a competent, national leadership, The Delta Force rewrote history in order to convey that this had been achieved. Historically, all TWA hostages were returned after negotiations between the U.S. government and the Shiite faction, Hizballah. 139 In the film, however, the plane finally lands in Beirut and the hostages are dispersed throughout the city where the Delta Force team is called in to rescue them from Arab terrorists. Once the hostages have been saved, the hero McCoy (Chuck Norris) confronts the head of the terrorist group, Abdul 139 McAlister, 226.
56 (Robert Forster). The terrorist is badly beaten before being dispatched with a small rocket launcher. McCoy then rejoins his team while slightly smiling, suggesting that there is pride in his vengeance. The Delta Fo rce portrays the fundamental argument of the hostage captivity narrative: the protection of Americans defined by domestic, private life requires active and capable intervention. As the film ends with the happy homecoming of the innocent individuals, signi military jet, for instance, the hostages cheer for them and throw flowers at the departing plane. From this perspective, public institutions must act to keep the private safe: 140 American character than the belief that good will triumph in the end, that the cavalry will 141 The Delta Force alon g with the Iranian hostage captivity narrative can be understood from the latter perspective: the morally good, capable, family savage, barbaric Arab. 140 McAlister, 229. 141 New York Times Magazine, November 2, 1980.
57 Conclusion Challenges to the Captivity Narrativ e This thesis shows how the captivity narrative has played a fundamental role in the construction of collective American identities throughout history. While the narrative served different purposes at different times, from its first inception through the 1980s, the narrative remained somewhat resilient: Americans defined and promoted their national savage, uncivilized, and evil. This reminds us of Edward Said's Orientalis m which traced how Europeans defined the is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient's difference with its w 142 The American captivity narrative analyzed in this thesis, though, represents a dominant narrative that was often challenged by marginal voices. This section analyzes two examples of American captives who crossed the enemy/friend boundary and c hallenged the dominant narrative's benevolent American identity. James Daly, an American POW during the Vietnam War, used his captivity military mentality whether it 's Vietnamese or American doesn't allow for individual's 143 While Daly here is critical of both sides of the conflict, the statement challenges themes of the POW captivity narrative concerned with individualism. Daly th didn't take me long to find out that, to the army's way of thinking, Vietnamese lives, even 142 E. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (New York: Penguin Classic, 2003), 204. 143 Quoted in Gruner, 139.
58 hundreds of them, were not as important as the life of one American. As far as the military was 144 These two statements suggest that Daly understood the Vietnamese as the true victims, an understanding that the POW captivity narrative significantly rejected. Ultimately, Daly comes to a concl 145 Sergeant William Quarles, a hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis, understood his captivi ty experience within the historical context of the event. Quarles was one of the lot from what I've read and what I've seen, and I'm very saddened by some of the things 146 Before t elevising these statements, one ABC reporter explained that Quarles's sympathy for his captors was a syndrome well known to psychologists. The mass media thus upheld the dominant captivity narrative even when the hostages themselves questioned America's c haracter and identity. In the preface to the 2003 edition of Orientalism rubrics like 'American,' 'The West' or 'Islam' [that] invent collective identities for large numbers of individuals who are actually quite diverse 147 The latter 144 Ibid, 140. 145 Ibid, 141. 146 Quoted in McAlister, 210. 147 Said, iv.
59 captivity narrative within the context of these marginal narratives can perhaps shed light on the tensions evident in American nationalism. When and if the marginal narratives enter the public discourse people can begin to understand a diverse American nationalism.
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