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Americans Recaptured: Progressive Era Memory of Frontier by Molly K. Varley

By Molly K. Varley

It used to be at the frontier, the place “civilized” women and men faced the “wilderness,” that Europeans first turned Americans—or so specialists from Frederick Jackson Turner to Theodore Roosevelt claimed. yet because the frontier disappeared, americans believed they wanted a brand new mechanism for solving their collective identification; they usually chanced on it, historian Molly ok. Varley indicates, in stories of white american citizens held captive by way of Indians.

For americans within the innovative period (1890–1916) those tales of Indian captivity appeared to turn out that the violence of nationwide enlargement were justified, that electorate’ person discomfort have been heroic, and that settlers’ touch with Indians and barren region nonetheless characterised the nation’s “soul.” in addition, within the act of memorializing white Indian captives—through statues, parks, and reissued narratives—small cities stumbled on a fashion of inscribing themselves into the nationwide story.

By drawing out the connections among real captivity, captivity narratives, and the memorializing of white captives, Varley exhibits how Indian captivity grew to become a way for revolutionary period americans to seem ahead through on reflection. neighborhood boosters and cultural commentators used Indian captivity to outline “Americanism” and to resume these frontier characteristics deemed important to the survival of the kingdom within the post-frontier international, akin to individualism, bravery, ingenuity, enthusiasm, “manliness,” and patriotism. In Varley’s research of the innovative period mentality, touch among white captives and Indians represented a degree within the evolution of a brand new American humans and affirmed the modern suggestion of the USA as a melting pot.

Revealing how the recitation and interpretation of those captivity narratives replaced over time—with moving emphasis on brutality, gender, and ethnographic and historic accuracy—Americans Recaptured shows that stories of Indian captivity have been not more fastened than American id, yet have been continuously used to offer that identification its personal beneficial, ever-evolving shape.

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