Early American Literature Essays

Themes in Early American Literature Essays

1568 WordsMar 4th, 20137 Pages

Themes of Early American Literature

Early American literature does a tremendous job of revealing the exact conditions and challenges that were faced by the explorers and later by the colonists of the New World. From early shipwrecks to the later years of small colonies barely surviving through dreadful winters, the literary works of the time period focus on some very recognizable themes. The theme of any given work – being simply the unifying subject or idea – is a very important element of any piece of writing. As one reviews some of this early literature, it becomes obvious that several themes appear repeatedly, and it is these subjects that were clearly very common among people from all over the New World. While a number of themes…show more content…

The explorer narratives, however, were not the only ones which described a dark and forbidding quality of the New World. The colonists at Jamestown and all along the eastern coast suffered through harsh winters with minimal supplies, causing many deaths and making life in the New World extremely challenging. For example, in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation he remarks that 50 of the 102 Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth had died within the first year (Perkins and Perkins 50). The reasons for the high number of deaths in the colonies vary, but disease and harsh winters certainly claimed their share. In addition, the colonies struggled to establish crops and solid dwellings for months or years after they first landed, and supply ships proved to be unreliable at best. John Smith of the Jamestown Colony is responsible for writing The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles in which he depicted the grievous condition of the colonists only days after the ships departed and left them to the mercy of the land (Reuben 6). He wrote, “Being thus left to our fortunes, it fortuned that within ten days scarce ten amongst us could either go, or well stand, such extreme weakness and sickness oppressed us.” (Perkins and Perkins 36). In the same piece of literature, Smith also noted another very ominous threat to the well-being of the

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Essay Role of Religion in Early American Literature

619 WordsNov 8th, 20123 Pages

Role of Religion in Early American Literature American Literature, especially of the early settler and colonial period is marked by a deep sense of religion and a stress upon writing about matters related to religion. The development of early American literature thus can be seen to be a reflection of the religious ideals followed by the early settlers and colonists and it became a means of promoting a moral and ethical way of life. Early American literature is filled with an obvious expression of religion and its redeeming power as well as an acknowledgment of its strength to help human beings bear adversity and triumph in difficult situations. The power of religion, as expressed in early American literature deals more with a sense of…show more content…

While the Puritans are generally perceived as hard working and God fearing people, they were also a highly educated people and their education found its expression in their writings. Their writings reflected their engrained beliefs, especially religion which was integral to their existence and hence early American literature is infused with religiosity. The role of religion in the literature of this period can also be attributed to the journals kept by the early settlers who recorded their daily life with precision. Religion became central to their journals because Puritanism called for reflection on the spiritual and this was expressed in their writings, which became records of their religious experiences and thus filled with religious ideas. The period when America saw the influx of British settlers in its lands was also the time when the Bible was put in the hands of the common man and greater number of people had access to religious writing. The settlers carried the holy book with them, which was a source of inspiration and sustenance for them in their trying times. The simplicity of the early American literature can be traced to the simple writing style characterized by the Bible and its religious message. The role of religion in early American literature is extremely pervasive and it forms the obvious theme for most written work composed during the period. The highly religious nature of the early settlers and their

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