Instructor Amelia Boan
15 March 2015
Religion in Colonial American Literature
Religion played a leading role in the works of colonial authors. It was the theme that radiated through most of the documented texts from this era in American history. Ideological views appeared to shape literary styles as well as the interpretations of historical and political events. Authors such as Anne Bradstreet, William Bradford, and John Winthrop were amongst the many who contributed to the portrayal of a God led life during this time period. Their communities and lives functioned based on the primary position in which they held their religious beliefs. A collection of colonial works edited by Nina Bayam entitled The Norton Anthology of American Literature 8th Ed. Vol. A: Beginnings to 1820, displays evidence of how religion was centered in everyday activities, writings, and the principles they upheld in their communities. Anne Bradstreet was an American poet who wrote on humankind, the seasons, family, and the pleasures she took in everyday life. Her poems express how God’s presence gave her the gift of profound sight. She attributes her talents to this gift and proclaims it is by God, “that I see the vast frame, the heaven and the earth, the order of all things, night and day, summer and winter, spring and autumn, the daily providing for this great household upon earth, the preserving and directing of all to its proper end,” (Bayam, P. 207). She wrote an account to her children that outlined the way in which she grew up, how she had come to be who she was, and when she accepted a life led by God. Bradstreet. Letters to them told of how to overcome the times they would become stricken with misfortune, and of when she herself mistrusted in God, felt unguided, and how she came to get over this hurdle. “She tells us in one of the “Meditations” written for her children that she was troubled many times about the truth of the Scriptures,” (Bayam, p. 207). She aimed to send messages of wisdom and hoped insight would be received from her words. Many of her accounts were intended to support others through hardships and doubt by instilling the ideological values she had learned throughout her own life. Her writings enabled her to mentor and ease the hearts of others if they had fallen while striving to live in faith. Although theology was not always the main consolation in Bradford’s writing, it set the course for the ethics she lived by, the topics and lessons she wrote about, and the elegant way she used words to express “the examination of her conscience,” (Bayam, p.207). John Winthrop was a notable author and lawyer who was convoluted by the debates brought about concerning the hierarchies of church. He had substantial involvements in the affairs of the Christian church and wanted to reform Roman styles of worship. His writings proposed a variety of questions and answers based on Gospel, and expressed his beliefs that the body of man should walk in the light of Christ. Most of the considerations in his writings were about love, man, and God. He writes of communities that “should come together to rejoice, mourn, suffer, and help others,” (Bayam, p. 168). Winthrop represented unity and peace in his literary contributions. There were endless entries in his journals where he spoke of the bond and covenant between a man's faith and God. He wrote of liberty, moral laws and God’s authority as if they were a part of his domain. His ideal of “a perfectly selfless community” was guided by his faith as his writings commonly contained a lesson about “a model of Christian charity,” (Bayam, p. 166). William Bradford was a journalistic writer in the colonial period and is responsible for introducing America to the pilgrims. He writes of the New World where he prays to discover a life for the colony when they may have their own land governed by Christian faith and law. Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal contains accounts of the...
Cited: Bayam, Nina. The Norton Anthology of American Literature 8th Ed. Vol. A: Beginnings to 1820.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2011. Print.
Bradford. W. Bradford’s And Winslow’s Journal. Britannica. Liberty of the Future 4th Ed. Ver. 5.0. Irvine,
CA: World Library, Inc., 1996.
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