Rowlandson had never written anything before she was kidnapped, but her book vividly dramatizes the psychological stages of the abduction experience, from the violent and disorienting “taking” to the “grievous” captivity, which Rowlandson divided into “removes,” because the Indians moved camp 20 times.
Yet they follow the pattern of the captivity narrative, from the taking (“One fateful day in June of 1991 changed my life forever,” writes Jaycee Dugard, abducted when she was 11 and held for 18 years), through prolonged captivity, to release and return.
These heroines find ways to survive in their unspeakable environments, primarily by establishing long-term relationships with their captors. It is a survival strategy in a situation with no escape — and much more true to reality than the sweeping categorization of criminals as bloodthirsty beasts and of victims as helpless lambs.”Despite being kidnapped when very young and just beginning their education, the girls read whatever magazines and books they could persuade their jailers to get for them.
Of hers, Dugard writes, “He gives me hugs sometimes and makes me feel loved.” While the psychological shorthand for hostages who develop emotional attachments to their kidnappers is Stockholm syndrome, freed captives often protest the term’s simplification and pathologization of their experience. Dugard read fairy tales, mythology and romance novels by Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel. They found ways to observe and imagine, even to write in captivity.
As Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian woman kidnapped at the age of 10 and imprisoned for eight years until she was able to escape, writes: “Getting closer to the kidnapper is not an illness. Sabine Dardenne, a Belgian woman locked for 80 days in a cellar as a 12-year-old, “always had an eye for detail,” she notes, and “everything that I’d noticed or heard was etched on my brain.” Kampusch wrote short stories in her mind “that nobody would put on paper.” Eventually she managed to get paper and write her own science fiction novel.
Regarding the Indians as savages, she also learned to acknowledge their humanity, and to negotiate and bargain with them.
After being ransomed, Rowlandson relived her ordeal for many months in dreams and flashbacks of “the night season.” But as she slowly adjusted to her return, Rowlandson came to understand how much she had changed, and found emotional expression, religious grace and public acceptance through writing her story.
Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesus and Michelle Knight, the three women kidnapped and held captive for about a decade in Cleveland, have asked through their lawyer for “time, space and privacy,” and have said they will not give interviews until the criminal case against the man accused of imprisoning them is resolved.
Surely their pleas to escape the frenzied attention and speculation of the media are justified.
Angela Carter’s 1979 novel “The Bloody Chamber” dwells lovingly on scented hothouse flowers, a ruby necklace, mirrors and .
But the realistic cells of captivity narratives are small, barren, dirty and dark.