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“American Encounters” by Angela L. Miller, Janet C. Berlo, and Others Essay

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Updated: Jan 12th, 2022

Introduction

Morality is supposed to be the differentiation among decisions, actions and intentions between the right ones and good ones based on ones religion, philosophy and culture. There are several places in the book of Pagan where the theme of morality is dominant. First, the book starts with Anne Orthwood and John Kendall engaging in intimacy on November, 1663. Anne is told to be single, and a servant who was aged 24 years. She had migrated to Virginia from England. John came also from England and lived in the same house with Colonel William Kendal who was his uncle and also powerful. Pagan describes the relationship as not casual, but john and Anne were involved for many months. Colonel came to know of the relationship, but did not approve it because Anne was a servant, and he did not want his reputation ruined of his kinsman having an affair and he was a powerful person (Pagan 8).

The Extramarital Affair

Extramarital relationship was not condoned on economic and moral grounds. Immorality was shown earlier when the book started with Anne and John engaging in intimacy which is against the religious practices of the colonel. The theme of morality comes out well here since Colonel; being the head of household, saw that he had a religious obligation of preventing his servants and family from the consequences of extramarital affairs like illicit pregnancy and its financial effects. He also believed that pregnancy to servants interfered with working in plantations and performance of domestic chores considering John and Anne worked for colonel’s plantations.

Anne and John are Sent to Prison

In order to achieve this, he sent away Anne to another owner of plantation, Jacob Bishopp so that John and Anne could be far away from each other but this did not prevent them from seeing each other. Pagan illustrate a situation where John and Anne met and had a sexual encounter for three hours where John promised that he would take responsibilities if Anne became pregnant and even marry her. (pagan, 7). She later became pregnant but John did not honor his promise where Anne reported him to mayor. It was morally wrong for them to engage in extramarital affairs and both were sent to prison. The theme of Morality is shown here where the mayor believed it was morally wrong for them to engage in sex before marriage. Many Virginians believed that sex was supposed to be engaged only after betrothal.

The Law and Church View of Fornication

Those who bore children were seen as not able to pay taxes due to problem of raising children on their own and so fornication was prohibited. Here the theme of morality comes out well where the law views fornication as immoral practice to engage in. Anne was fined two more working years or either pay 2000 pounds to his master for the time lost during her pregnancy and childbirth when she was supposed to be working. Anne bore two twins but later died after childbirth, one of her twins died also and one survived called Jasper.

It is known why Anne agreed to the advances of John, but the promise of marriage could have made. She saw that law and society did not condone fornication and it was immoral. It is this strictness that made young men promise marriage so that they could be accepted. Therefore, Anne wished to have a fiancée and saw that John was a suitable candidate who could liberate her from servitude and later marry her. He saw him single, young and came from a powerful family.

The church disapproved fornication, taught that it was sinful and humiliated those that were caught engaging in. Those who fornicated were fined or whipped (Pagan 7). Church courts were the ones responsible for punishing those who engaged in fornication but John had to be fined by county court because Virginia had no church court. He was fined “500 pounds of tobacco”. It was morally wrong to stain ones reputation and hence the main theme of fines.

Anne’s Background

Pagan takes readers back to background of Anne where she was raised by a single mother. Anne was baptized in Anglican Church by Ricketts. He had a register where he recorded each baptism, marriage etc. He had also recorded two names of parents of the children who were baptized and of the 58 children he had recorded during the baptism of Anne, one parent name was recorded, Mary Harwood, for Anne. Rickets saw that she was an illegitimate child and added another name, “notha” in Latin to mean bastard (Pagan 9). This was to show that her mother had committed fornication, and therefore disciplinary action was supposed to be taken against her. This was another case of church viewing sex before marriage as immoral and the theme of morality is well depicted here.

To restore back offenders to a good relationship with God, the church made them to publicly repent being dressed in white sheet. The sinner had to admit his/her sins, and if one failed to do so, they were sent out of the church. The theme of morality is strongly shown here by the severe consequences of engaging in extramarital affair by a church member. Anne’s mother had to leave “All Saints Parish” to avoid humiliation after the baptism of Anne (Pagan 17). However, it was burden to provide for herself and Anne, considering she was in a new environment, and she was a single parent. She was burdened more when she became pregnant again and bore a second child called Mary.

Bastards

The world bastard was famous in the seventeenth century. It meant illicit offspring and this showed the position the society hold for the illegitimate children. The word caused shame to the illegitimate children yet it was not their fault that they were born illegitimate. This caused also shame to the parents since they are the ones that bore the illegitimate children. The children born out of wedlock were sometimes referred to as “sons of nobody”. They possessed few rights like legal protections, inheritance and all the other rights the legitimate children enjoyed. It is due to this view of immorality that made children born out of wedlock face hardship; not having enough rights to protect and cater for them ( Pagan 18).

Conclusion

To conclude, the consequences that came with illegitimacy made people like Anne’s life to be hard. Due to a large population growth, there was surplus of labor particularly domestic servants, textile and agricultural workers. There were high prices of goods and services ,offered poor wages, land shortage, unemployment and rising rents. It is this that made many to migrate to big cities and others overseas.

Works Cited

Pagan, John. Anne Orthwood’s Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.

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