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Literary Styles of Early America

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Puritan writing style and Deist writing style

Puritan writing style and Deist writing style

Old Styles of Writing in the New World

The two styles of literature known as Puritanism and Deism do not share a common theme other than the use of the word "God." The views go their separate ways when it pertains to God as He intervenes in the lives of the people. This difference affects the religious saturation of the text, as well as how the author portrays this information to readers. This difference also influences the subject matter, as well as gives the reader a glimpse into the mentality of the writer. One can learn a great deal about the past by reading the author's work, and by understanding the context in which it was written.

Deism and Franklin

It is no surprise that Benjamin Franklin fits into the category of an author since most of his works from this time are thought to be credible sources for American History. The way Franklin writes, and his interests, are closely related to other authors who share the Deist's frame of mind. His [Franklin] thought process lead him to explore ideas outside of the normal realm of reasoning, separating him from other men at the time. 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 quote holds true to Deists theology, which states that all men are equal because God does not intervene, nor does He show favor. This belief influences the way Franklin and other authors of Deism assemble their writing.

Deism 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 for things to happen by natural occurrences. The forefathers, who were mostly Deists, try to establish this nation on the precedence that everyone is equal and welcome to worship God as they see fit.

The Puritan Literature

The Puritan concept of “original sin” influenced their literature in every aspect. References to God, and the frequency of these references, is a form of worship. In every part of their lives, they pay homage to God. The Puritans may seek special favor with Him, even though their religious beliefs state that certain individuals are predestined for Heaven or Hell. Their “pure” aspect of Christianity sends them on a search for a place where they can practice freely, as well as impose these practices on others, in order to gain favor with God. Many topics find their way into the Puritan style of literature, as they deal with their hardships on a daily basis. Subject matter ranges from Native Americans to their journey across the sea, yet each story places God at the center of it all. In William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, he writes about the journey across the Atlantic, and how every action is 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).

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Differences in Doctrine and Theology

The true difference in the outlook of Puritan writers lies with their idea of glory and who gets the credit for it. The Puritans give glory to God in all that they do, as He stepped in to guide their journey across the sea. Deism simply looks at glory through the eyes of a humanist, giving credit to the captain and his navigators.

There are a few clear differences between the writing styles, other than religious aspects. One is the way in which they wrote; the physical language changes some from one style to the other. The Puritan style of writing is considered to be a format for Old English, rather than the newer American style used by the authors of the 18th century. The style the Puritans use arrives with them when they move into the new world. It can be seen in their written documents and literature. Over time, the original “God, Gold, and Glory” theory is deteriorating and the religious zealots will subside; giving way to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

The church and religious sects take a step back and accept what they believe. Waiting as the Enlightenment progresses, the concept of pre-destination lays dormant until the time of the Great Awakening.

Works Cited

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., 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, Web. 6 August 2017.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Bri Smith

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