Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> New World, The (2005) >>

For a comprehensive bibliography and other material, see The Pocahontas Archive

Print Resources

Abrams, Ann Uhry. The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origin. Boulder: Westview Press, 1999.
"The Virginia and Massachusetts origin myths embody the character of two diverse societies and often serve as rationales for their opposing ideologies. . . . As a Native American [Pocahontas] symbolized uncorrupted nature and inherent common sense; as a woman, she stood for both the strength and weakness of the perceived feminine character; and as an Anglican convert, she personified the path Indians should follow if they wished to survive in Christianized America. . . . The Massachusetts myth centered on a patriarchal hierarchy. . . . The nucleus of the Pilgrim migration was paternalistic and family oriented; the heroes were men leading a biblical-style mission. . . . In short, the Pilgrim myth exalted the educational and cultural refinements of Western civilization; the Pocahontas myth glorified a symbiotic relationship between man and nature."
Buscombe, Edward. "What's New in the New World?" Film Quarterly 62.3 (2009): 35-40.
On the new DVD version: The new DVD release has added twenty minutes to the 1 50-minute length of the theatrical release. (The image on the box, of Smith slashing wildly at a naked savage, does the movie no service at all, suggesting as it does some banal blood-and-thunder potboiler.) For the most part the added minutes are taken up with a few extra shots inserted into a number of scenes. The opening sequence of the Indians swimming is longer, John Smith's first journey up the river at the beginning of the film has more detail, and several of the scenes between Smith and Pocahontas are elongated in the later version. This does little to change the overall impact of the film, merely lending it a more relaxed, expansive feel. (Curiously, some sequences have actually been tightened in the extended version.) Malick has also added a series of chapter titles, the first one, "A New Start," coming with rather heavy-handed irony immediately before we see Smith with a rope around his neck, waiting to be hanged. One notable sequence has been added. At the end Pocahontas has a conversation in England with her uncle in which she says she has made a great many mistakes. "I hope that some day my people will forgive me." The scene adds further poignancy to her death, which follows shortly.
Faery, Rebecca Blevins. Cartographies of Desire: Captivity, Race, and Sex in the Shaping of an American Nation. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1999.
Faery frames an exploration of the appropriation of Pocahontas's story by various groups with the narrative of a visit to Gravesend. Admits that Pocahontas is "idealized, mythologized, incorporated into and serving Anglo-American legend and culture" (86). Her story parallels the many narratives of Indian captivity but with the benefit that she "left no known text of her own" (87) and thus could be spun to benefit any number of positions. She discusses the ways in which the discovery and colonization of America used the imagery of women's bodies, and particularly that of Pocahontas (88). The colonizers were encouraged by sexual imagery and also by the standard that non-Christian people cannot be civilized and must be conquered (90). Pocahontas's story was used to "domesticate this version of the female America, to disarm her and deconstruct her power" (98). There is a movement from depiction of America as Amazon to Queen to Princess: Pocahontas. Faery points out problem with these discourses: Pocahontas was probably not a virgin, and she had been married for three years before her capture (106). The sexuality of native women was enough to condemn the culture to colonization. She analyzes treatments of the masque. Finally, she turns to the responses of Native women writers, who problematize the traditional interpretation of the Pocahontas story and recast her as a powerful Native woman.
Keiser, Albert. "The Pocahontas Legend." The Indian in American Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1933. 1-9. (New York: Octagon Books, 1970.)
The first chapter in perhaps the first modern scholarly book surveying literary representations of the Indians (short chapters on the Puritans, Cooper, Paulding, Simms, Hiawatha, Thoreau, and a dozen others). Focuses on the controversy over the rescue triggered by Charles Deane in 1860, concluding "The truth will probably never be known, and as the pros and cons carry about equal weight, judgment may well be suspended" (8). However, "The romantic story of Smith and Pocahontas, true to Indian character and so appealing to human nature," though fading from view after 1850, "perennially fascinates the youthful mind, and of late her romantic person has again been put before the eyes of the public, proof sufficient of the vitality of the intriguing material" (8-9).
Tilton, Robert S. Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.
Young, Philip. "The Mother of Us All: Pocahontas Reconsidered." Kenyon Review 24.3 (1962): 391-415. (Three Bags Full. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967. 175-203.)
Most people have a general understanding of the Pocahontas narrative and how it connected to that of other major historical figures, such as John Smith. However, Philip Young describes in his essay that most people may not realize how her name has "pervaded our culture." (184) "She is an American legend, a woman whose actual story has blended with imaginary elements in time become traditional." (176) Young's essay is compiled of four sections. Section one indicates "there was a historical precedent for the Pocahontas tale." (182) Young specifies that similarities between Smith's story and the story of a soldier, Juan Ortiz who explored Florida in 1528. Young describes that Smith may have in fact "borrowed from other travelers of the period." (182) Section two and three of the essay criticize the way that American culture and literature have misrepresented Pocahontas "to romanticize history instead of letting the facts acts as a stimulus to fiction", beginning with the works of John Davis.(190) Section four addresses the common theme that the essential elements of Smith's rescue story shares with the literature from the Middle Ages to conclude that Pocahontas is "the archetypal sacrifice to respectability in America." (203)

See Also

Buscombe, Edward. "Injuns!" Native Americans in the Movies. London: Reaktion, 2006.

Carnes, Marc C., ed. Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. New York: H.Holt, 1995.

Fiedler, Leslie A. The Return of the Vanishing American. New York: Stein and Day, 1968.

Gould, Philip. "The Pocahontas Story in Early America." Prospects 24 (1999): 99-116.

Gunn Allen, Paula. Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994.

Hulme, Peter. "John Smith and Pocahontas." Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797. London: Methuen, 1986. 137-73.

Larson, Charles R. American Indian Fiction. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1978. 17-33.

Macdonald, Iain. "Nature and the Will to Power in Terrence Malick's The New World." The Thin Red Line. Ed. David Davies. London: Routledge, 2009.

Michaels, Lloyd. Terrence Malick. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2009.

Morrison, James. "Making Worlds, Making Pictures: Terrence Malick's The New World." Poetic Visions of America: The Cinema of Terrence Malick. Ed. Hannah Patterson. London: Wallflower, 2007.

Patterson, Hannah. The Cinema of Terrence Malick: Poetic Visions of America. London: Wallflower Press, 2007.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Rosenstone, Robert A. Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.

Rybin, Steven. "Voicing Meaning: On Terrence Malick's Characters." Terrence Malick: Film and Philosophy. Ed. Thomas Deane Tucker and Stuart Kendall. New York: Continuum, 2011.

Wasowicz, Laura. "The Children's Pocahontas: From Gentle Child of the Wild to All-American Heroine." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 105.2 (1995): 377-415.

Online Resources

Burgoyne, Robert. "The Columbian Exchange: Pocahontas and The New World." Screening the Past 25 (September 2009).
"Taking the myth of national origin at its most nascent point, Terrence Malick's The New World (USA 2005) both challenges and reinforces the traditional story of the encounter, depicting it as both harrowing and full of utopian possibility, presenting the narrative as a tone poem of contrasting and dissonant parts. On the one hand, it amplifies the erotic and emotional bond between Smith and Pocahontas, conveying a tantalizing possible world of interlayered consciousness, interwoven cultures and natures, the merging of differences rendered through dual interior monologues and flowing associative images, all connected by a gliding, drifting camera. On the other hand, it portrays the founding of Jamestown as an environmental disaster, providing an eco-critical reading of the history of the earliest colony. . . . In this essay, I argue that The New World reorients the story of the settlement of Jamestown, one of the foundational myths of nation, in a way that effectively defamiliarizes the viewer's experience of place, history, and identity. The film folds together the fictional romance of Smith and Pocahontas with the historically documented story of Jamestown, structuring the narration and the focalizing perspective around these two characters, and later around the figures of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, who become husband and wife. A radical and poetic experiment in narrative form, the film can be considered a form of historical 'revisioning,' as Robert Rosenstone describes the process of re-imagining the historical past."
Foreman, Alexa, updated by R. Barton Palmer. "Terrence Malick." Film Reference.
Factual information and brief essay on the director.
Lee, Hwanhee. "Terrence Malick." Senses of Cinema.
Overview essay and filmography.
The Pocahontas Archive
The Pocahontas Archive is an ever-growing collection of materials relating to the study of Pocahontas (and, by association, John Smith, Jamestown, and early Virginia) from early America into the present: histories, biographies, poems, plays, fiction, textbooks, movies, essays, dissertations, newspaper articles, children's books, paintings, sculpture, recordings, genealogies -- whatever has contributed to the shaping of the Pocahontas figure in our culture.
Repphun, Eric. "Look Out Through My Eyes: The Enchantments of Terrence Malick." pp. 21-23.
"The New World (2005) is concerned with exploring the rift between enchanted and disenchanted worlds, this time told primarily through two respective cultures' relationship with nature. . . . The film trades almost entirely on the collision of Smith's disenchanted world and his lover's enchanted world. . . . The Algonquin village, Werowocomoco, meticulously re-created from the most current historical research, practically jumps off of the screen. Malick makes it both a lived-in home for his strikingly rendered Algonquin and a place very much in harmony with its particular place in nature. . . . Jamestown is all dirt, mud and confusion."
Rybin, Steven M. "The Historical Thought of Film: Terrence Malick and Philosophical Cinema." Ph.d diss. Ohio University, 2009.
"This study seeks to intervene in this critical literature by theorizing an approach for understanding Malick's films as works that do not merely illustrate already articulated philosophical themes but that rather function, in dialogue with the spectator, as an invitation to generate creative and historically situated meaning."
Sinnerbrink, Robert. "From Mythic History to Cinematic Poetry: Terrence Malick's The New World Viewed." Screening the Past (December 2009).
"Terrence Malick's The New World (2005) is a poetic evocation of one of America's founding myths, the story of Pocahontas. While the film allegorises -- through the theme of marriage -- the possibility of successful cultural exchange and of reconciliation with nature, it also fuses mythic history, subjective reflection, and the self-expression of nature. This unstable point of view has led to a critical ambivalence concerning the film's romantic naivety: its evocation of ideologically suspect myths or historically anachronistic tropes. My discussion defends the film as knowingly romantic; an aesthetic challenge to our historical scepticism towards the experience of new worlds."
Terrence Malick
Biography and list of works.