Write a critical note on the ideology of puritanism reflected in American Literature.
The Puritans weren’t the first inhabitants of America, and certainly not the first European settlers on the continent. Many a voyage of exploration or discovery began with the 1491 voyage of Cristofer Colombo, an Italian sailor who, either by accident or intent, found its way to the shores that would later be known as America. These voyages lasted over 100 years, but no Englishmen manned them until the 1580s, according to records. Englishmen were deeply absorbed in their internal conflicts for decades. Sir Walter Raleigh sent an English ship in 1584 to see if it was possible. In 1606, another attempt was made to colonise the other lands. This time, the intruders set up a settlement in Jamestown (Virginia), which was named after their Virgin Queen. However, the settlement was plagued by many disasters. Perry Miller, a classic study on the topic, has noted that Puritanism began as an agitation within Church of England in late sixteenth century. It was a movement to reform that institution and was not an alternative to Anglicanism which was still the dominant theology. The Church of England was separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530’s. It had progressed a little in this revolt by the time Elizabeth 1 reigned in 1558. By that point, it was Protestant, had disestablished monasteries, and rectified many Papist abuses. Puritanism was the belief in the continuation of reform, the correction of more abuses, the abandonment of practices from the days of Papacy, and that the Church of England should return to the “purity,” of Christ’s first-century Church. When purification advocates were first given the name of Puritans in the 1560s no one knew how far they would go.
Francis Jennings, a historian, has written a very accurate article about the Puritan immigration to America. He stated that the “so called settlement of America” was a resettlement. It was a reoccupation for a land which had been ravaged by newcomers and the diseases they introduced. However, the rise of Puritanism as America’s dominant ideology is partially explained by the destruction of Old cultures in the New World by new entrants.
The Puritans were self-conscious emigres and made it a point to record their experiences in New World while they were experiencing them.
John Winthorp wasn’t the only Puritan who kept a journal detailing his daily adventures on foreign shores. Writing ability was seen as a sign of civilisation for European travelers. The European perspective also states that the unlettered Indians, Indians, and slaves of Africans who were brought in to work as chattel labour, were either recorded in or transcribed from the Puritan narratives. It is evident that Bradford approves of the killing of Indians, despite his protestations regarding the sordidness. Cotton Mather, a Puritan theologian, is more open than Governor Bradford when he approves of the genocide. “It was believed that 600 Pequot souls were brought to hell that day.” Bradford’s story is not your average piece of writing. This tract, originally intended to be a memoir about his American adventure, is quickly transformed into cultural propaganda from New England by one of the most prominent colony administrators.
Through the text, two themes flow together. The first is that America was completely wild in the time it was encountered by the Puritans. It was almost uninhabitable, and therefore uninhabited. The second was that America, whatever it was or was going to be, had nothing to do Europe. In other words, America was to be what the Puritans wanted it to be. Bradford writes that before the Puritans there was a wild land like no civilized person had ever seen. “If they looked behind them, they saw the mighty ocean which passed them and [which] was now the main bar and the gulf to separate them from all civil parts of the globe.” The captain threatens daily to leave, and not even the ship at anchor qualifies for this absolute separation. As their situation is more dire than that of “the Apostle” and his shipwrecked crew, the Lord must help them. . . They were treated with kindness and respect.” The Puritans encountered savages who were “more ready to load their sides with arrows than anything else.” Bradford’s chronicle stands out from other early American texts because it features natives who fight against whites.
As Bradford calls the children of the fathers to Plymouth Plantation, it consciously invents an historical tradition. Myra Jehlen said, “It proposes fundamental terms for organizing the experience of colonisation.”
IGNOU MA English IGNOU MEG Solved Assignment English Literature
These terms include re-definitions and oppositions between wilderness and civilization. The wilderness is untouched by any cultivation. It is also home to a potential exceptional construction, despite its natural beauty. Bradford describes a strange paradox in which civilization is simultaneously ambiguous. It is clear that the civilization destroyed forever by Puritans was a sign of great achievements. It is also a place of vicious and destructive violence. The last impression Bradford’s book gives is one that the apparent polarities between civilization and wilderness are not one of contrast. In fact, the two situations seem to be very similar. They look more like mirror images than antithetical emblems. The Puritans leave no antithetical good behind when they go to the New World to confront its scaring inhospitality. Their complaint about the lack of towns, inns or houses in New World is a measure of their problem, but it does not offer a solution. The solution remains to be found. The rest of the book details each undertaking, including the construction of accommodation and the enactment laws. The Puritan elite repeated their belief that the founding of America was their work, as documented in numerous chronicles, such as Bradford’s, and that there were no similar detailed claims made by other groups living in America before or after the Puritan arrival. This led to Puritanism becoming the dominant American ideology.