John Winthrop

by Francis J. Bremer

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Compare John Winthrop and Mary Rowlandson's writings with reference to the concept of the jeremiad.

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In his famous study of Puritan rhetoric, The American Jeremiad (1978), cultural critic Sacvan Bercovitch argues that the jeremiad was the prevailing rhetoric mode of American literature from colonial times down to the nineteenth century. According to Bercovitch, the jeremiad "helped sustain a national dream through two hundred years of turbulence and change". It was a ritual which aimed at joining "social criticism" and "spiritual renewal". Although different in topic, both Winthrop and Rowlandson's writings described the American experience as part of a providential design to counter moral decay. The Puritan minister and the female captive share a providential interpretation of natural and historical occurrences whose ultimate meaning is always religious. The foundation of the Massachussetts Bay Colony in 1630 and the eleven weeks Rowlandson spent as a prisoner of the Algonquian Indians share the same redemptive end which is reached through the complete dependence on God.

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