Friday, February 20, 2015

Jaycee Lee Dugard: The Modern Olive Oatman

I’m going to take a different approach to this topic. Instead of reacting to Olive’s story I’d like to compare what happened to her to something of a similar nature that happened quite recently. I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard. Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held captive by her abductors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, for eighteen years. Similarly to Oatman, Dugard was taken against her will and forced to assimilate. She was renamed Allissa, and realized that her captors wished to fill a child shaped void in their life. Like the Mohave people, the Garridos wanted Dugard to be one of them. Dugard’s name “Allissa” was the equivalent to Oatman’s facial tattoo, it showed that she was no longer her old self, and one of them. They told her countless times that her family didn’t love her and didn’t want her back. These falsities, combined with the immense loneliness she experienced, eventually convinced Dugard to cooperate with her captors. Like Oatman, Dugard saw no chance of being rescued, and thus assimilated. In her memoir, A Stolen Life, published in 2011, Dugard wrote, “ask yourself… what would you do to stay alive?”[1]           
            While reading The Blue Tattoo, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between Oatman’s and Dugard’s stories. In addition to their ages and length of their captivities, their lives after being rescued are quite similar as well. As we discussed in class, Oatman was “rescued” and then thrust into the spotlight, seen as a celebrity of sorts. Similarly, Dugard’s story almost instantly became headline news. Published in People magazine, broadcasted on the news networks, discussed in her memoir, Dugard became a household name. I believe the only differences in their stories, besides the fact that Oatman’s face was tattooed, are because Oatman lived over 150 years ago.  Regardless of the era in which it occurred, both women became public figures, known by many, and publicly retold their story in depth numerous times.
            Both Dugard’s and Oatman’s stories share many components. The period in which it happened and the permanence of their scares may be different, but both women became other people during their captivity. For Dugard she became Allissa Garrido, and for Oatman she became a Mohave. In the end their experiences are shockingly similar, I would even go as far as calling Dugard, the modern Olive Oatman.

[1] Dugard, Jaycee Lee. A Stolen Life: A Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print.

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