Early Lit and Ideal of Self Improvement

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The idea of improvement is inherent in all people, and has been thoroughly discussed and realized in various ways within different cultures. In American literature the ideal of self improvement is exemplified in the writings of John Smith, Anne Bradstreet, William Bradford, and Thomas Jefferson. The works presented “A Description of New England” by John Smith, “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet, and “The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson” will show a concentration on the idea of self-improvement. Although each of these writers has many differences an underlying commonality is shared between them, the ideal of self improvement. John smith was part of the ruling council in Jamestown which was the local government. He was put in such a position of power due to his knowledge and experiences. His ideal of self improvement ultimately proves to be the root of persona. In “A Description of New England” Smith says, “Let this move you to embrace employment, for those whose educations, spirits and judgments want but your purses; not only to prevent such accustomed dangers, but also to gain more thereby than you have.” (Baym) This very statement exemplifies Smiths’ ideal of self improvement not only for himself but for others. As with William Bradford he too was in a position of power as a governor. Bradford is said to “epitomize the spirit of determination and self-sacrifice”. (Baym) Clearly self improvement is an ideal of William Bradford and John Smith. Bradford shows the power of determination and will of self improvement in his writing “Of Plymouth Plantation”. Anne Bradstreet was highly intelligent and largely self-educated. Coming from a family of successful men, Anne proves self improvement is an ideal of hers. In a different way Anne Bradstreet expresses her ideal for self improvement, through poetry. She has a consistent appeal for the love of her husband in “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” (Baym) She...
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