Early Writing Styles of America
Buzzwords: Puritanism, Deism, God, America
Two styles of literature known as Puritanism and Deism, do not share any common themes other than the belief in God. The views go their separate ways as it pertains to God when He is intervening in the daily lives of the people. This difference merits the degree of religious saturation in the text, as well as how the author portrays this information to readers. This change also impacts the subject matter in general as well as the mentality of the writer. One can learn a great deal about the past by reading what the authors are portraying at the time a document or text is written.
It is no surprise that Benjamin Franklin fits into the category of an author, especially since most works from this time period are thought to be a credible source for some studies of American history. The way Franklin writes and his interests are closely related to other similar authors who share the Deists frame of mind. His thought process leads him to explore ideas outside the realm of normal thinking for men of his generation. Franklin’s belief that God steps aside after Creation enables him to make his own destiny. No doubt Franklin uses this idea to pursue careers in multiple facets of his life. In his work, A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, Franklin writes “If He is all-powerful, there can be nothing either existing or acting in the universe against or without His consent; and what He consents to must be good because He is good; therefore evil doth not exist” (Franklin). This plainly holds true to Deists theology which says that all men are equal and are on even playing ground because God does not intervene nor does He show favor. This belief in itself influences the way Franklin and other authors of Deism assemble their writing. Deism also plays a key role in the establishment of this nation’s Declaration of Independence. The United States does not have a state church or religion, as in England, but one God who set in motion a plan of things to happen by natural occurrences. The forefathers, whom are mostly Deists, try to establish this nation on the precedence that every one is equal and welcome to practice their worship of God as they see fit.
The Puritans and their concept of “original sin” influence their literature in every way possible. References to God and the frequency to which He is given reference can be seen as a form of worship. In every aspect of their lives, they pay homage to their God. The Puritans may seek special favor with Him even though their religious beliefs state certain individuals are pre-destined for Heaven or Hell. If that is the case, makes one wonder why they even bother writing this way if God already has his followers. Their “pure” aspect of Christianity leads the search for somewhere they can practice freely as well as impose these practices on others, much to gain favor with God. Many other topics find their way in to the Puritan style of literature, as they deal with their hardships on a daily basis. Subject matter will range from Native Americans to journeys across the sea and a new way of life. In William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, he writes about the journey they endure and everything that happens is known to be to the will of God. “Thus his curses light on his own head, and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him”. Another quote from Bradford in this same text states, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element” (Chapter 9). The true difference in the outlook of Puritan writers lies with their idea of glory and who takes the credit for it. The Puritans give glory to God in all that they do. He stepped in to guide their perilous journey across the sea. Deism simply looks at the glory in the eyes of the humanist. A Deist will give the credit to the captain and his navigators.
There are a few clear differences between the writing styles other than the religious aspects, being the way in which they wrote. The actual physical language changes some from one style to the other. The Puritan style is more of an Old form of English than the American style of English. The way the Puritans write will stay with them as they arrive in the new world, carrying it over into their written documents and literature. Over time, the original “God, Gold, and Glory” theory is deteriorating. The fanatic religious zealots will subside and give way to new ideas and ways of thinking. The church and religious sects will take a step back and be willing to accept all and re-evaluate what they believe as the Enlightenment progresses. The concept of pre-destination will lay dormant until the time of the Great Awakening.
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation. Ed. Donald McQuade. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1999. Print.
Brumm, Ursula. "Did the Pilgrims Fall upon Their Knees When They Arrived in the New World? Art and History in the Ninth Chapter, Book One, of Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation." Early American Literature, vol. 12, no. 1, Mar. 1977, p. 25 Web. 6 August 2017.
"Differences Between Puritanism And Franklins Deist Views Religion Essay." UK Essays. UKEssays.com, November 2013. Web. 6 August 2017.
Harper, Leland R. "A Deistic Discussion of Murphy and Tracy's Accounts of God's Limited Activity in the Natural World." Forum Philosophicum: International Journal for Philosophy, vol. 18, no. 1, Spring2013, pp. 93-107. Web. 6 August 2017.
Clark, Michael. "The Subject of the Text in Early American Literature." Early American Literature, vol. 20, no. 2, Sept. 1985, p. 120. EBSCOhost, proxygsu-gamc.galileo.usg.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=5413816&site=ehost-live. Web. 6 August 2017.