Throughout most of our American Literature readings the common theme that was being written about was religion, faith in God and in turn self-reliance. I believe that the authors of early America were contingent upon their religion and their faith to develop their own resources to aid them through the various trials and tribulations of their lives.
One might argue that these American writers were extremely self-reliant due to the fact that they had to be. They did not have the same resources or access to help like we do today. So in a way, their faith made them self-reliant.
Some examples of this are seen when reading about early American history and the times of settlement and westward expansion. Families would pack up all their belongings and head out into the unknown, relying on their own strength and abilities to make it through whatever came their way.
This idea of self-reliance is also evident when looking at some of the famous Americans from this time period. People such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln all became well-known for their hard work and determination in the face of difficult obstacles.
So while early American literature may not be as exciting as some of the other genres, it is still important to consider the themes that are present within it. Themes such as religion, self-reliance, and determination can still be seen in American society today and continue to shape our nation’s identity.
William Bradford is one of the earliest authors to show self-reliance. He thought that God was guiding the Pilgrims on the right path and that every misfortune could be an opportunity to follow His guidance if they were thankful for it.
Anne Bradstreet is another early American author that wrote about self-reliance. In her poem, “The Author to Her Book”, Bradstreet compares her work to a child and how she must protect it from the world and its judgment. Although, self-reliance is a key theme in early American literature, there are other themes that run throughout the works of early American authors.
Another theme found in early American literature is that of discovery. This can be seen in the works of both Bradford and Bradstreet. For Bradford, discovery was about finding God and His guidance in everything that happened to the Pilgrims. Bradstreet discovered her own voice as a writer and used her poetry as a way to express herself and her thoughts on the world around her.
These are just a few examples of the many themes present in early American literature. While self-reliance may be the most prevalent, other themes such as religion, discovery, and determination also play an important role in shaping this genre of writing.
Because Bradford had strong faith, he believed that God would intervene on behalf of himself and others. This led him to success. Another Puritan belief is that women have a specific role in society. According to this belief, it was a woman’s duty to take care of her family and husband inside the home.
In Bradford’s eyes, women were not made to be in the public eye and political figures. In fact, he goes as far as to say that it is “not convenient” (103) for women to be in those types of positions.
Throughout American history, there have been many different themes that have emerged in American literature. Some of these themes include:
-The idea of America as a “promised land” or “new world”
-The frontier and westward expansion
-Individualism vs. conformity
-The impact of technology and science
-Racism and prejudice
-Relationships between different social classes
-The search for identity
– The role of religion in American life
One of the recurring themes in early American literature is the idea of America as a “promised land” or “new world.” This is seen in works such as The Puritans by John Winthrop and Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford. In these texts, the authors discuss the reasons why they decided to come to America and how they believe that the new world will be a better place for them. Another example of this theme is seen in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, where the character Jay Gatsby is shown as someone who is desperate to escape his past and start anew in America.
Another common theme in early American literature is the frontier and westward expansion. This is seen in works such as James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales and Bret Harte’s tales of the American West. In these stories, the protagonists are often shown as explorers or settlers who are moving into unknown territory in search of adventure or a new life. This theme is also present in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where the character Huck Finn runs away from civilization and heads down the Mississippi River in search of freedom.
A final theme that is often seen in early American literature is individualism vs. conformity. This conflict is often explored in works that deal with the Puritans and their strict religious beliefs. For example, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the character Hester Prynne is punished for committing adultery by having to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her clothing. However, Hester refuses to conform to the Puritan society’s expectations and instead chooses to live her life according to her own rules.
Anne Bradstreet was an introspective writer who focused mainly on poetry about her personal life, which was highly unusual for a woman in Puritan society. Though she faced many challenges due to her gender, she persevered and found solace in her writing.
Whereas, Edward Taylor questions his own religious beliefs and practices. He was a Puritan minister that wrote mostly about God, sin, and the afterlife. Many of his poems were not published until after his death.
Lastly, Phillis Wheatley was a slave who became a well-known poet. She too wrote about her religious beliefs, as well as, current events such as the American Revolution.
All three writers relied on their faith to help them through their struggles in life whether it was with society or personal demons. For Anne Bradstreet, her faith helped her deal with the death of her children and living in a male-dominated society. For Edward Taylor, his faith comforted him during times of self-doubt. Lastly, Phillis Wheatley’s faith gave her the strength to endure slavery.
Each writer had a different way of expressing their themes in their writing. Anne Bradstreet was more subtle in her approach, while Edward Taylor and Phillis Wheatley were more direct.
Themes such as self-reliance, faith, and struggle are all present in early American literature. These themes are still relevant today and can be seen in modern literature as well.