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Female Captive Stories in the United States from the Colonial Era to Present: A Study in the Pervasive Elements of the Traditional Narrative

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Master's thesis

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The female captivity narrative is one subset of the American war story tradition. The captivity narrative became so popular that it has been repeated many times over in popular fiction and todays television and movie productions. An examination of such narratives, drawn from the entire chronology of American history, from the colonial period to the present, reveals that such stories are remarkably similar. Indeed, one could claim that captivity narratives are fundamentally the same story, one narrative varied only by details of the historical period and the identity of the captors. The issue of captivity concerning todays American female soldiers brings about another question. That is, are women warriors now incorporated into American war stories, or are they placed into a revised female captivity narrative The female prisoner of war stories appear to fit the latter narrative. This study will argue that this common narrative has revolved around three recurrent and basic elements that together constitute the American female captivity narrative repeated continuously for three and a half centuries. The first common element is the captive is usually a white female of European descent. The captives whiteness is punctuated by the fact her captor is a person of color American Indians, Japanese soldiers, and Iraqi guards. The second element portrays the captive as both hero and victim, creating a conflict in expected behaviors of American women based on cultural norms. The final element focuses on the captives and American cultural perceptions of the other the stories are often used as a means of propaganda which promotes the ideology of good versus evil, Christianity versus non-Christianity, or America versus the other. American womens continued exposure to war has made them susceptible to capture and the continuation of the narrative in American culture.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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