2Essential QuestionsWho were the early Americans and what motivated them to come to the New World?What defined the American Dream for early Americans?What aspects of their time and culture influence America today?
3Early American Literature Literature focuses primarily on the nonfiction prose—including sermons and diaries—and some poetry in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Students examine the works of some of the earliest settlers in various parts of the “new world.” Students will consider the significance of the intersection of Native American, European, and African cultures. They explore whether conflicts were inevitable and how language and religion served as barriers and as bridges. Students look for emerging themes in American literature, such as the “new Eden” and the “American dream.” Finally, art works from the period are examined for their treatment of similar themes. Also examine how the above influences us today.
5The Author: William Bradford Bradford was born in 1590 in a small farming town in England. Orphaned by parents and grandparents, he was raised by his uncle.At age 18, he joined a group of Separatists and fled to Amsterdam. He then moved to Holland but did return to Amsterdam to marry Dorothy. They had a son, John, born approximately in 1615.By 1620, when a segment of the church had decided to set off for America on the Mayflower, Bradford (now 30 years old) sold off his house in Leiden, and he and his wife Dorothy joined; however, they left young son John behind, presumably so he would not have to endure the hardships of colony-building. While the Mayflower was anchored off Provincetown Harbor at the tip of Cape Cod, and while many of the Pilgrim men were out exploring and looking for a place to settle, Dorothy Bradford accidentally fell overboard, and drowned.
6Bradford was elected governor in 1621, and was re-elected nearly every year thereafter. In 1623, he married to the widowed Alice (Carpenter) Southworth, and had a marriage feast very reminiscent of the "First" Thanksgiving, with Massasoit and a large number of Indians joining, and bringing turkeys and deer. Bradford was the head of the government of Plymouth, oversaw the courts, the colony's finances, corresponded with investors and neighbors, formulated policy with regards to foreigners, Indians, and law, and so had a very active role in the running of the entire Colony. With his second wife, he had three more children, all of which survived to adulthood and married. Beginning in 1630, he started writing a history of the Plymouth Colony, which is now published under the title Of Plymouth Plantation. A number of his letters, poems, conferences, and other writings have survived.William Bradford was generally sick all winter of ; on May 8, Bradford predicted to his friends and family that he would die, and he did the next day, 9 May 1657, at the age of 68.
8The Separatist Puritans Bradford’s Puritans were a bit different than the later Puritans. Bradford and the other colonists were considered Separatists: they believed that the reforms of the Anglican church had not gone far enough, that, although the break with Catholicism in 1535 had moved some way toward the Puritan belief in and idea of religious authority grounded solely in Scripture and were a bit different than those we will discuss later.
9The Pilgrim LifeThe concept of community pervades the entire text of Bradford. The colonists had to work together to survive.The relationship between sacred and secular history, poses another thematic tension in the text. Bradford's insistence upon the "special providences" of God (those reserved for the elect in times of crisis) exists to justify all events that take place.
10Puritan History and Influence Puritan men of the generation of the Great Migration (1630–1640) believed that a good Puritan wife did not linger in Britainthe Puritan model of education in New England was unique. John Winthrop in 1630 had claimed that the society they would form in New England would be "as a city upon a hill"; and the colony leaders would educate all. In 1636 they founded the school that shortly became Harvard College.Alexis de Tocqueville suggested in Democracy in America that Puritanism provided a firm foundation for American democracy. "Tocqueville was aware of the harshness and bigotry of the early colonists"; but on the other hand he saw them as "archaic survivals, not only in their piety and discipline but in their democratic practices.” Puritans are often credited as the first American individualists, and at the same time the Puritan predilection to control others and how they live has been identified with an American social cultural tendency to believe they hold moral high ground. In Hellfire Nation, James Morone suggests that some opposing tendencies within Puritanism its desire to create a just society and its moral fervor in bringing about that just society, which sometimes created paranoia and intolerance for other views—are at the root of America's current political landscape.Puritans considered their society a model society “candle to light the world.”
11Puritan Beliefs Predestination: The Pilgrims believed that before the foundation of the world, God predestined to make the world, man, and all things. He also predestined, at that time, who would be saved, and who would be damned. Only those God elected would receive God's grace, and would have faith. There was nothing an individual could do during their life that would cause them to be saved (or damned), since God had already decided who was going to be saved before the creation of the world.
12Puritan BeliefsTo the Pilgrims, there were only two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. The other sacraments (Confession, Penance, Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Confession, Last Rites) of the Church of England and Roman Catholic church were inventions of man, had no scriptural basis, and were therefore superstitions, to the point of being heretical. Icons and religious symbols such as crosses, statues, stain-glass windows, fancy architecture, and other worldly manifestations of religion were rejected as a form of idolatry. It was the rejection of the authority of the church hierarchy, and of the sacraments, that was the primary cause of conflict between the Pilgrims and the Church of England.
13Puritan BeliefsThe Pilgrims faithfully observed the Sabbath, and did not work on Sunday. Even when the Pilgrims were exploring Cape Cod, to the Mayflower crew's dismay, they stopped everything and stayed in camp on Sunday to keep the Sabbaths. The Pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas and Easter. These holidays were invented by man to memorialize Jesus, and are not prescribed by the Bible or celebrated by the early Christian churches, and therefore cannot be considered Holy days.They also did not have forms of entertainment such as plays or works of fiction. Those would have been considered vain and not permitted. Social events included barn raising and other community events.
14Puritan Beliefs Conversion Event: Since Puritans believed in Predestination, they analyzed their lives to find a sign of God’s Grace.Traumatic Events or overcoming hardships were often used to prove a conversion event had taken place.A conversion event was needed to validate church membership and status in the village.
15Conversion Events and Women While both sexes carried the stain of original sin, for a girl, original sin suggested more. Eve’s corruption, in Puritan eyes, extended to all women.An example is the different ways that men and women were made to express their conversion experiences. For full membership, the Puritan church insisted not only that its congregants lead godly lives and exhibit a clear understanding of the main tenets of their Christian faith, but they also must demonstrate that they had experienced true evidence of the workings of God’s grace in their souls.Only those who gave a convincing account of such a conversion could be admitted to full church membership.Women were not permitted to speak in church after 1636 (although they were allowed to engage in religious discussions outside of it, in various women-only meetings), thus could not narrate their conversions.
17Land!Map of Cape Cod area where the Pilgrims ended there grueling journey across the ocean.
18Puritan HomesEarly Homes were limited by lack of tools and labor.
19Plymouth RockPlymouth Rock portico built over the top of Plymouth Rock in 1920. The grass hill behind the portico is Cole's Hill, where the Pilgrims buried their dead the first winter.
20Literary TermsPuritan “Plain” Style: This type of writing does not include any narrative style, figurative language or other literary elements.It does not seem “plain” to modern readers because of the complicated vocabulary and inverted word order.Idealism: Pursuit of noble principles or goalsPragmatism: character or conduct that is practical.
21Literary TermsAllusion: a reference to something generally known. Alluded items may include biblical, literary, historical, popular culture, current eventsBias: a prejudiceSummary: briefly restate the main pointsParaphrase: reword the text in your own words
22Literary Terms Primary Source: A first-hand account. Secondary Source: A second-hand accountEx: Bradford was a pilgrim and wrote about the events, making Plymouth Plantation a primary source.Ex: I was not a Plymouth Rock therefore, my notes are researched and considered a secondary source.
23Literary Terms Archaic language: language no longer used; obsolete. Point-of-view: such as first person, third-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient.Conceit: arroganceAspect: A part ofCite: textual evidence to support an idea or inference.Contemporary: existing during same time or modern timeInterpret: provide meaning; explain; explicatePerspective: point of viewWhy would Bradford choose to write this historical account in third person?