Both Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and John Smith hold different attitudes regarding their accounts of Indian life. The difference in attitudes may have resulted from the difference in treatments that each man received while in captivity.
De Vaca’s experience is a humbling one. His account of Indian life is written in a thoughtful manner, and he describes the Indians kindly. While he describes his captivity as “melancholy and wretched” (De Vaca 34), it’s clear that he harbors no ill feelings towards the Indians. He states that he and his men were treated well, that they lived as “free agents” (De Vaca 32) and tried to accustom themselves to Indian life. He’s highly observant of the Indian life. He records the Indian lifestyles in detail; his account reads more like a cultural ...view middle of the document...
He continuously refers to the Indians as “savages” (Smith 46) or “barbarians” (Smith 48) throughout his account. He even describes them as “devils” (Smith 51). At one point, he thinks that the Indians are trying to “fat him to eat him” (Smith 50). Smith’s account is so incredibly dramatic that he expects “every hour to be put to one death or other” (Smith 52). Also, the incident with Pocahontas saving Smith appears to be highly romanticized. Smith’s manner of writing, in which he writes of himself in the third person, only adds to the boastful tone of this account. It makes the entire account seem impersonal. It also makes Smith appear self-important and frivolous.
One can only speculate on why there is such a huge difference in these two writers’ attitudes. Their backgrounds may be factors that have influenced their attitudes. For de Vaca, it may be his religious background that has influenced him and shaped his attitude. In his account, he acknowledges his religion several times. “My only solace in these labors was to think of the sufferings of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and the blood He shed for me,” de Vaca writes. Religion appears to be a great source of comfort to him, which may explain his peaceful attitude in his account. As for Smith, his personal background may play a role in his attitude and personality. It’s stated that “his early life was deceptively mundane” (Smith 43), and at the age of fifteen “tales of exploration, piracy, and military adventure had already stirred his imagination” (Smith 43). That along with his military background may explain his temperament and haughty attitude.
It’i s not surprising that de Vaca and Smith should have such different attitudes regarding their accounts with Indians. After all, both men did have drastically different experiences. It’s only expected that their attitudes should differ from one another.