Puritans and American Literature
How Did the Puritans Who Came over to This New Land – America – Help to Develop and Provide a Foundation for American Literature?
Among the first colonists who became the founders of America, there were a lot of Puritans. All of them came to the New Continent for diverse reasons. It is important to note that they were extremely religious people who advocated highly moral principles. They came to America with a set of values, a philosophy of life, and a point of view, which later became known as “American Puritanism.” Puritanism played a significant role in the American history and made a strong impact on American thought and literature. In some way, Puritanism became the state of mind of Americans, a part of the national culture of the USA. Therefore, it can be safely claimed that without clear understanding of American Puritanism, the true comprehension of American literature is impossible. Puritans developed and provided the foundation for American literature by introducing new points of style.
The Puritan literary works were written in a plain style with church and the Bible as central themes. The widespread influences on early American literature began with personal diaries and instructive sermons of the Puritans. The Puritans in New England were only part of the New World settlers. However, in the eighteenth century, the Puritans created a considerable number of literary works. The Puritans made three significant inputs to the American literature. First, they contributed mythology of their own to Americans. The second input is inextricably linked to the first one referring to God and Godhead of the whole world. The third point alludes to the adversary, international, and visionary America that has root in the New England.
The concept of history was viewed by the Puritans with special excitement and intensity. The main reason for the confidence of Puritans in their historic mission lied in their belief of history being overwhelmingly meaningful because God, who was the governor of the history, wished that it had to be so. Four leading representatives of the Puritan literature include John Winthrop, William Bradford, Thomos Shepherd, and Cotton Marther. They studied the questions of history, particularly the distinct nature of the current historical moment.
Winthrop supported the theme of the colonists’ life in covenant with each other and God. In 1630, he wrote a sermon “A Model of Christian Charity,” where he depicted the Massachusetts colonists who should understand their responsibility before the rest of their world, their need for unity, compassion, and God. William Bradford, in his work on Playmouth Platation, describes the founding, the evolvement, and the decay of the colony in 1620-1650. He was first to address the idea that New England was a site of a unique experiment. The New World was seen as the land of new inceptions and ideas. The key figure in the Playmouth Plantation was undoubtedly William Bradford, and John Winthrop was his analogue in the Massachusetts colony. Cotton Marther was a prolific writer who wrote Magnalia Christi America, which depicts America as the best land for dwelling and the place that provides opportunities for free writing. This work is a pastiche of beauty, brilliance, and botch as it comprises seven books that tell the history of the settlements in New England, the lives of governors, the “six famous divines” and the magistrates as well as the “wars of the Lord” against Satan, Indians, witches, and Quakers.
Americans were intent upon the large issues of God’s purpose and the historical processes; however, everybody was no less concerned about the condition of their own soul. The theme of self-search was represented in the art of Thomas Hookern, Samual Sewall, and Mary Rowlandson, who reflected the strenuous self-searching and the reasons that lead to it in their works. At that time, people were Protestants and supported the protestant doctrine that an individual had to find the sins they were guilty of by self-examination instead of checking the list of general sins. However, the Puritans found self-examination to be a very demanding exercise. Hooker’s impressive sermons are an excellent example of what was meant by speaking about Puritans as tough.
The inward journey goes through all of the American romantic writing, arising as primarily psychological events, widely described by Melville. The main Melville’s works that reveal the self-searching theme are Clarel as well as shorter pieces like “I and my Chimney” and “The Encantadas.” One more example of such literature is Francis Parkman’s self-identifying work, The Oregon Trail, which may be perceived at the same level with the exploring of the self’s hidden territories.
The major aspect of human activity that the Puritans prompted to purify was the literary style. They were mainly involved in prose styles, particularly in the church sermons style; they were also really keen on the writings of poetry. The Puritans were advocates of the plain style of writing. The proof of the Puritans’ plain style is Bradford’s history of Plymouth, which he starts by assuring his readers that the story he will narrate is manifested in plain style. The author promises that his work is written with regard to the clear truth in all things.
Puritanism was a significant part of the colonial New England literature. The impact the Puritans made could find expression in all aspects of the American literature. The belief that all of the religion processes were centered in the individual guided the colonial writers to make records of an individual’s spiritual development in autobiographies and diaries. Puritan authors supported the style of writing that was based on the church and self-search themes. The Puritans not only believed in God but also were seeking for their inner purpose.
How was Anne Bradstreet’s Life and Poetry Trendsetting for its Time?
Anne Bradstreet is considered to be a real poetic writer of the seventeenth century. She demonstrates a strong Puritan voice and is the first prominent poet who wrote verses in English in the American colonies. She is also the first female American colonist writer. The works of Bradstreet reveal her feminine as well as Puritans ideals, and they appeal to a broad audience of readers. The culture of American Puritans was mostly unstable, with diverse incipient formations of religious, political, and social powers competing in public. Anne’s works basically reflect her real surroundings or Bible images. The writing of Bradstreet is mainly of the Puritans and her life. The individualism of Anne Bradstreet lies mostly in her choice of material, not in her style of writing. The works of Anne Bradstreet reflect the style of her living and are trendsetting for the era she lived in. First of all, her works depict the emotional and religious conflicts she experienced as a Puritan and as a woman writer. Throughout her life, Bradstreet dealt with the issues of redemption and sin, emotional and physical weakness, immortality and death. Much of her works demonstrate her hardships in resolving the inner as well as social conflicts she went through between the familial experience and pleasures of sensory and the promises of heaven. Being a Puritan, she struggled to conquer her attachment to the world, but the role of a woman sometimes made her feel a stronger connection to her children, community, and husband than to God. Moreover, marriage was significant to the Puritans who believed in the proper raising of children and procreation being necessary for constructing God's commonwealth. Nevertheless, the love between a husband and a wife was not supposed to divert from the devotion to God. Although in that era, people belonged to God and followed the religious rules strictly, Bradstreet's sonnets demonstrated her erotic appeal to her husband as central. Being an individual, Anne was free in her desires. Secondly, as a female writer, Bradstreet initiated the theme of anguish of the homeland, which also became trendsetting. The new life in the New World was a challenging task as Anne missed home and had to accustom to the current conditions of life. In her verses, Bradstreet demonstrated all the hardships people had to overcome during that time. This state of hers inspires her work “Dialogue between Old England and New,” which was published in The Tenth Muse in 1650. Anne Bradstreet’s work expresses her concerns about the religious and social turmoil in England, which made the Puritans depart from their country in search of a better life and freedom of speech. The poem represents a conversation between a mother in a role of England and her daughter in a role of New England. The pleasant tone demonstrates Bradstreet’s deepest attachment to her native land and her distress about the loss and the waste of life produced by the political upheaval. The Old England's lament means that the destructive impact of the social strife on people’s lives was more worrying to Bradstreet than the subject of the conflict. Anne Bradstreet worried about the fate of her nation; she was disappointed that the English people had to leave their country searching for a better life and the possibility of free speech. The writer inserted all her thoughts and feelings in her literal works. Current readers can easily understand the situation of that time looking through her verses.
Third, the poetry of Anne Bradstreet presents her female principles. The writer was concerned about the role of women in the society and presented this theme in her writing. The example of her thoughts on the female theme is a poem published in the first edition of The Tenth Muse, “In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory.” The work was written in 1643, and it reveals Bradstreet's personal feelings. In the verse, Anne praises the Queen as a perfect example of female prowess. Bradstreet introduces the Queen's historical prominence and outstanding leadership making her male readers think about treating women as important human beings. In a caveat underscoring her own antipathy of patriarchal arrogance, Bradstreet calls attention to the fact that women were not usually devalued. The honor for Queen Elizabeth denotes Bradstreet's belief that women must not be secondary in relation to men. Anne Bradstreet was a feminist to some extent because she worked as much as men writing her poems, all while looking after her children. Although the feminist ideas were not common in that era, Anne was a special woman, she expressed her thoughts in a way that allow the contemporary readers to feel the atmosphere of that time.
Bradstreet was one of the first female Puritan writers who became prominent through the epochs. Although the life of the colonial author was not easy, Anne struggled much and expressed her thoughts and feelings on the pages of her poems. In her verses, Bradstreet presented the events happening to her and her nation every day. Bradstreet's poetry showed the struggles of a woman who desired to reveal her individuality in the culture that was confrontational to personal autonomy and appreciated poetry only in case it praised God. Despite the fact that Bradstreet never rejected her religious believes, Anne’s poetry claims that if it were not for the fact of decay and dissolution, she would not search for eternal life.