The 17th century was the period when many aspects of the people’s lives were based on religious principles. That is why the Puritan writing also reflected the religious themes or presented the discussion of certain elements and events from the spiritual perspective.
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The works by two famous American Puritan writers of the 17th century Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson reflect the main features of the Puritan writing because the authors discuss their personal experience concentrating on their spiritual growth and the role of God in their life. Thus, Bradstreet emphasizes her experience as a writer in the poem “The Author to Her Book” and reflects on the life-long knowledge along with the role of religion in such works as “Upon the Burning of Our House” and “To My Dear Children.”
In “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson,” Rowlandson provides the discussion of her own life and religious experience. Although Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s Puritan writings differ in style and approach, both the authors present their views and ideas through the lens of religion and focus on relief, assistance, and hope provided by God to overcome life challenges. What do the poems of Anne Bradstreet and the narrative of Rowlandson, when looked at together, suggest about the fears and anxieties of women in puritan society? The tendency to connect the aspects of the secular and spiritual world can be observed concerning the Puritans who succeeded in regulating their lifestyle according to the Biblical norms and ideals. The Puritans were characterized by the ability to discuss all the events and phenomena in life from the perspective of their religious education. From this point, religion was the fundament of the Puritan society.
The sinful nature of humans can be overcome with the help of faithful living and devotion to God. As a result, the Puritans should focus on their thoughts and actions and control them with religious principles. To be sure that an individual follows the right path, the Puritans should focus not only on the spiritual improvement but also on self-discipline and reflection.
In spite of the necessity to regulate their life according to strict norms of the Puritan doctrine, the Puritans are happy to receive God’s assistance and feel God’s blessing. That is why the Puritans perceive any life challenges through the prism of their reliance on God. If to compare and contrast the lives and writing of Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson, it becomes clear that they also followed these ideals as the Puritans, and these principles were reflected in their works.
Although the life experience and knowledge of Bradstreet and Rowlandson are different, these two authors are very similar in their views and discussions of all the personal sufferings and survival experiences with references to their beliefs. Thus, the details of the writers’ lives are different, but many similarities can be found while examining Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s attitudes to those challenges which they experienced. The life of each woman is closely associated with struggle and necessity to survive under dangerous conditions.
The life experience of the two writers should be discussed from many perspectives. Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s knowledge can be considered as similar because both the women found the relief and hope in their faith while coping with the sufferings and struggling with the circumstances.
Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s writings are different in style and mood because Bradstreet is inclined to focus on blessings and hope when Rowlandson is more radical in her discussion of personal experience and providing conclusions. However, the authors’ works are similar in the main characteristic of the Puritan literature, which is the proclamation of God’s will, love, and mercy.
In her letter “To My Dear Children,” Anne Bradstreet presents the details of her personal life in the form of enlightening stories in order to explain children the role of God’s grace in life.
According to Bradstreet, all the problematic moments in her life, which were associated with immigration, illnesses, and deaths of relatives, were overcome because of relying on God’s assistance. The writer draws the children’s attention to the fact that all her pleas were heard, “I have had great experience of God’s hearing my Prayers, and returning comfortable Answers to me” (Bradstreet “To My Dear Children” 105).
Bradstreet also speaks to her children, “If at any time you are chastened of God, take it as thankfully and Joyfully as in greatest mercyes, for if yee bee his yee shall reap the greatest benefit by it” (Bradstreet “To My Dear Children” 104). The author focuses on her religion as the way to live happily and always have hope for the better life presented by God.
In her writings, Bradstreet states that she is thankful for God’s presence, and her ability to write is one of God’s presence and blessings. Being rather demanding to her activities as the Puritan and being focused on self-discipline and self-evaluation, Bradstreet is also demanding to her activity as a writer. “The Author to Her Book” is the poem in which Bradstreet evaluates her first literary works as ‘offsprings’ (Bradstreet “The Author to Her Book” 98).
It seems that Bradstreet rejects her ability to write as her specific personal quality because her skills are also God’s gifts. The more close connection of the writer’s personal life and feelings with the role of God in the person’s development can be observed with references to the poem “Upon the Burning of Our House.”
Bradstreet depicts the tragic event in her life, responding to the role of God in her coping with one more life challenge. Even though the described activity is a negative experience, Bradstreet’s poem is full of hope and faith. Thus, the author refers to God’s assistance several times in her poetry, stating that God made her stronger, “And to my God, my heart did cry / To straighten me in my Distress / And not to leave me succourless” (Bradstreet “Upon the Burning of Our House” 101).
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Furthermore, Bradstreet states that all the material is God’s gift, and she can rely more on God’s mercy than on the material, “A price so vast as is unknown, / Yet by His gift is made thine own; / There‘s wealth enough, I need no more, / Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store” (Bradstreet “Upon the Burning of Our House” 101). The strong connection of the author with God is observed with references to many works because Bradstreet aims not only to present her experience but also reflect on her spiritual knowledge.
Rowlandson also faced a lot of challenges and injustice in her life, and she documented her tragic experience in such works as “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” The similar major point in the works by Bradstreet and Rowlandson is that both the authors present their feelings and experiences referring to God’s will and grace.
Thus, focusing at each stage of her experience of being imprisoned by the Indians, Rowlandson states that only faith in God and His mercy helped her overcome all the challenges and even accept the death of her child. Rowlandson says, “God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fall” (Rowlandson 123).
That is why any dangerous events associated with captivity could not make Rowlandson hesitate or lose her faith. Furthermore, Rowlandson’s faith was her guarantee that she could overcome all the challenges and barriers. Thus, “the Lord upheld me with His gracious and merciful spirit, and we were both alive to see the light of the next morning” (Rowlandson 130).
From this point, Rowlandson, as well as Bradstreet, relies on God’s will and assistance significantly, and this reliance helps the writers be alive and struggle with the circumstances. To support her discussion of captivity experience as God’s will and blessing, the summary shows that Rowlandson refers to many verses from the Bible as the primary source of knowledge (Rowlandson 130). Any difficulties and issues should be met by the Puritans as God’s lessons, which can educate believers.
Bradstreet and Rowlandson believe in God’s justice with all their hearts, that is why they accept such tragic events as the fire and loss of the house, illness, and the death of a child as God’s trials. These trials can be overcome only by believers, and the Puritan tradition focused on self-examination, and spiritual growth supports this idea.
Which of Bradstreet’s common themes reflects her puritan beliefs? Writers often represent their personal experiences in the form of literary works, that is why Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s approach is not unique. As such, Bradstreet’s common theme of practicality reflects her puritan views. Moreover, following the tradition of the Puritan writing, the authors make God one of the main characters in their writings because of His role in their lives. As a result, the works written by Bradstreet and Rowlandson are so similar in their central theme and idea.
Struggle, life challenges, and sufferings made these women stronger. Moreover, their faith provided Bradstreet and Rowlandson with hope. As a result, the writers share their experiences with the readers while focusing on the aspect of religion. Presenting the story of her captivity, Rowlandson is concentrated on God’s will.
Thus, the discussion of challenges as God’s blessings is typical for Puritan writing, and this tendency is observed while discussing the works by Bradstreet and Rowlandson. The Puritan beliefs are reflected in all the words of the writings to state the idea that the women’s experiences and knowledge are similar if not the same regarding their faith and spiritual growth.
Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson’s writings differ in the stylistic peculiarities and mood, but they are similar in the central theme and idea. Both writers analyze their challenging personal experiences through the lens of their religious development.
Discussing personal struggle and sufferings, the authors reveal the idea of God’s grace and assistance as the main factors which can help people overcome life difficulties. Thus, Bradstreet and Rowlandson’s knowledge of the principles of the Puritan tradition is similar, and they are directly reflected in the writings. According to the authors, all the events should be discussed as God’s lessons and used for spiritual growth and improvement.
Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book”. Harper Single Volume American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. USA: Longman, 1998. 98. Print.
—. “To My Dear Children”. Harper Single Volume American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. USA: Longman, 1998. 103-107. Print.
—. “Upon the Burning of Our House”. Harper Single Volume American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. USA: Longman, 1998. 101-102. Print.
Rowlandson, Mary. “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”. Harper Single Volume American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade and Robert Atwan. USA: Longman, 1998. 122-152. Print.