Essay: Colonial Literature

Essay by jessicagodboutHigh School, 11th gradeA, April 2004

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During the colonial period, literature was important for a few reasons. America was a new place, without much of its own history. Journals such as William Bradford's "The History of Plymouth Plantation," Sarah Kemble Knight's "Traveling in the New Land" and Cabeza de Vaca's " The Narrative of His Journey document the early history of these settlers. The three works were written about 100 years apart, and tell the journeys of three different people in three different time periods. Colonial Literature was also important for writing new law for America. "The Declaration of Independence" by Thomas Jefferson and "The Iroquois Constitution" by Dekanawidah are political documents that set up law for new institutions. Both talk about the qualities of a leader and how government should be run.

Much of the literature in the colonial period was letters back to Europe. They had never seen things like the settlers were seeing, and works such as William Byrd's "Bears" and Pedro de Castaneda's "Europeans see the Buffalo" helped Europeans learn what the animals, people, and landscape of the new land was like.

One man who wanted all Europeans to know about the Great New Land was John Smith. He was the advertiser, and in "The New Land," he encouraged all who could be spared to come start life in America.

Just about every aspect of life at that time had some relevance to God. This is shown greatly in poems like Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of Our House" and "Upon What Base?" by Edward Taylor. Both these works talk about ordinary things: a natural disaster and the miracle of the Earth. However, in both cases, these ordinary occurrences are seen to be the works of God. This variety of literature from the colonial period shows that it came in many...