Early American Literature

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Early American literature has a large and diverse style that reflects beliefs and traditions that come from the nation’s frontier days. The pioneer ideals of self reliance and “independence” appear in many American writings (Columbus 23). Several American writers have always had a strong tendency to break literary traditions, and invent their own. Through literary analysis, the audience is able to trace the dominant themes of opportunity and religion that contribute to American values in literature from the earliest letters and narratives by exploration and colonialism, through the Puritan period, to the Age of Reason. Puritan ethics are prevalent throughout early American literature, stemming from the Puritans themselves, and continuing into and beyond 19th century literature. Puritans such as John Winthrop, governor and community leader, wrote many stories which religion was emphasized. In one of his most famous works, “A Model of Christian Charity,” Winthrop prepares the people for planting a new society in a perilous environment. His belief along with other Puritans is that God had a “preordained plan” (Winthrop 77) for everyone. They believed that they were the covenant people, and that hard work, spiritual health, and self-reliance would lead to eternal salvation. These religious beliefs would later become known as the Puritan ethic, and would continue to influence the authors of early American society. Literary works from the colonial period were written primarily to teach, preach the Gospel, praise God and examine religion. It was believed that through these teachings and divine revelation, God will have a “heavy affliction” and positive affect on the people and “the land” on which they settled (Winthrop 75). This would in turn make the new world a pure and holy society. Other authors such as William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet (the first published female American author), wrote on religion, Puritan’s views, and God’s influence on early...
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