After reading from the textbook for multiple weeks now, I have come to the conclusion that I thoroughly enjoy the readings. In the past, I have read a course textbook simply to be able to follow along in class or earn a good grade, however, the text in this textbook truly grasps my interest and is intriguing to me. I often find myself re-reading passages of the weekly readings to friends, include passages from the reading in my “quote journal,” and tell stories to my parents when we catch up on the telephone.
Puritan New England: Mary Rowlandson (1636 ?- 1711):
From this week’s readings, I found Mary Rowlandson to be of particular interest to me. Her story held my attention and evoked fear and worry from me as I read; I believe that one of the qualities of a good writer is that they can cause readers to feel whatever emotion it is that they would like while reading their story.
Below is a picture of Mary Rowlandson so that she can be better visualized as I talk about her writing:
In 1676, various Native American tribes attacked Lancaster where Rowlandson and her three children were held captive. Just the thought of kidnapping and being held captive is frightening to me. At a time where there weren’t well developed security measures or ways to contact family members, this concept proved itself to be even more frightening to me. I could never even imagine being separated from my husband and children, not knowing the next time that I might see them.
“The Sovereignty of God”
Rowlandson’s work titled, The Sovereignty of God, is absolutely remarkable to me. This book was the first book published in the English colonies in North America. Known as the first “captivity narrative,” Rowlandson’s book became popular very quickly and was purchased and read aloud by a wide audience. Below is an image depicting the book:
Below is a YouTube link in which Lancaster, the place from which Rowlandson and her family were captured, is described. Rowlandson’s writings are also quoted throughout the brief clip:
I find it fascinating that with today’s technology we are able to get a close look at the places and times in which the history of our nation took place.
Rowlandson describes the events that took place at the natives attacked Lancaster and captured her and her family members. She explains:
“They fell with might force and fury upon Lancaster: which small Town, remote from aid of others, and not being Garisoned as it might, the Army being now come in, and as the time indeed required (the design of the Indians against that place being known to the English some time before) was not able to make effectual resistance: but notwithstanding utmost endeavour of the Inhabitants, most of the buildings were turned to ashes; many People (Men, Women and Children) slain, and others captivated” (193).
The above passage proves that it was not Rowlandson and her family alone who were held captive, but that many other families were in the same situation. What amazes me even more than her vivid descriptions about her experiences, is Rowlandson’s steadfast faith in God despite all of the chaos. Although she is separated from the people she loves most, Rowlandson claims:
“ That God is indeed the supream Lord of the world, ruling the most unruly, weakening the most cruel and salvage, granting his People mercy in the sight of the unmercifull, curbing the lusts of the most filthy, holding the hands of the violent, delivering the prey from the mighty, and gathering together the out casts of Israel” (196).
Rowlandson has faith that God will save both her, her family, and all others who suffer from the attacks of the natives because of their faith. Not once in her writing does Rowlandson blame or condemn God for letting Him place her in this situation, but instead, she praises Him for his power and ability to save her.
My favorite quote in Rowlandson’s text is from the section titled, “The second Remove” and states:
“It is not my tongue, or pen can express the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness of my spirit, that I had at this departure: but God was with me, in a wonderfull manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail” (199).
Again, Rowlandson’s faith is steadfast and unwavering despite all of the problems surrounding this woman. Rowlandson also proves that she is well read in terms of the Bible. Despite the hunger pangs, sadness, and abuse that she suffers while in the hands of the natives, she repeatedly quotes and references the Bible for encouragement and help.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758):
Below is an image of Jonathan Edwards, a man who was a good student, fascinated with nature, became a famous Puritan minister, was a leader of the Great Awakening in the 1740s, and was a missionary to the Housatonic River Indians:
Although I read a few pieces by Edwards for this week’s lecture, I have decided to mainly focus on the sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” for this blog entry as I found it to be most interesting.
The picture above is of Edwards’ sermon; it is his most famous sermon, the sermon that gave him the nickname as the preacher of “brimstone and fire” (290). When Edwards speaks, he does so in such a way that instill fears in the minds and hearts of listeners, encouraging them to turn to God for repentance and safety. Edward threatens that the flames and tortures of hell are real and the sentence for those who do not turn to God. It is said tat Edwards’ words were so powerful that he could evoke “shrieks and cries” from his audiences (290).
“There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God” (292)
I would like to further expand upon and explain the meaning of Edwards’ above statement. Edwards claims that God is not power hungry but simply punishing individuals became they deserve to be cast into Hell. Edwards explains that these individuals have already been sentence to Hell and that the devil is waiting to receive them the moment that God wills it. Lastly Edwards states that man has no power in working to preserve his own life once he has been sentenced and that God has no moral obligation to keep people out of Hell.
On page 296, Edwards explains the horrors and pain experience in Hell, aiming to steer individuals away from Hell and toward God:
“There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; ‘tis only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”
In the final section of Edwards’ sermon he depicts the wrath of God and encourages listeners to steer clear from it; Edwards pushes individuals to ask God for forgiveness to be washed clean of all sin and freed from the confines of Hell.
I would like transition now to discuss the Age of Enlightenment in terms of American literature…
Print Culture and the Road to Revolution:
Print culture between the years 1750 and 1776 was crucial in the development of both colonial unity and a growing sense of national identity that culminated in the American Revolution (314). While there were still some, at this point in time, the majority of the Native Americans had been driven out of the thirteen colonies.
While many new of books and their importance, books were expensive and were “regarded as a luxury by most colonists” (318). The few individuals who wrote books generally wrote about religious themes and experience that could apply to almost all individuals who picked them up.
As time passed, commoners felt more and more pressure to learn how to read. An emphasis was then placed on the literacy of the commoner in order to keep them “up to speed” with social and political developments. Without literacy, commoners wouldn’t be able to read newspapers or articles written about contemporary and relevant happenings. Today, if one is illiterate, there are often other ways to obtain news (although it is still difficult) that did not exist in the past. For example, individuals can watch television or obtain current events from news clips online.
Society and Culture in the New Nation:
The journals of Lewis and Clark, two explorers depicted below, offered the American public their first true glimpse of the vast potential of the tremendous area west of the Mississippi River (326). Prior to these explorers, imaginations wandered and conjured up their own ideas about westward expansion.
At this time, print culture began to develop in many other ways amongst society: the Missouri Compromise helped to settle divisions over slavery; women were encouraged to obtain an education; newspapers played a key role in politics; and book production thrived after the revolution as war heroes published their stories.
I look forward to reading more about the Age of Enlightenment in the readings to come! I’m sure that I will enjoy them just as much as I have enjoyed my readings thus far.