Can you analyze this little piece of text extracted from "Of Plymouth Plantation" by William Bradford?   Can you analyze this little piece of text extracted from "Of Plymouth Plantation" by...

Can you analyze this little piece of text extracted from "Of Plymouth Plantation" by William Bradford?


Can you analyze this little piece of text extracted from "Of Plymouth Plantation" by William Bradford.

"In continual danger of the savage people, who are cruel, barbarous and most treacherous, being most furious in their rage and merciless where they overcome; not being content only to kill and take away life, but delight to torment men in the most bloody manner that may be; flaying some alive with the shells of fishes, cutting off the members and joints of others by piecemeal and broiling on the coals, eat the collops of their flesh and in their sight whilst they live, with other cruelties horrible to be related."

What is going on in this fragment? Can you comment this piece of text? I mean, could you write a short composition in which there can be seen the relationship between what you write and the text to really comment on the text focusing on the paragraph, on what the text means?

If you could help me to understand better this text, you can make paralelism. I want a commentary of this text, not plot summaries of the whole work.

It belongs to "Book I, Chapter IV. Showing the Reasons and Causes of Their Removal" within the whole work "Of Plymouth Plantation"


Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The passage you cited is quite typical of New Englander's concepts of Native Americans whom they considered to be members of the "lost tribe of Satan." He describes them as being cannibals at times and cruel savages who delight in torturing their victims by flaying them alive. The attitude expressed was a way of justifying their belief that God was on their side and that the Indians were wasting the land which the New Englanders wished to take from them.

Initially, the Indians had helped the people to survive by showing them how to plant corn and other crops; however the Europeans insisted on more and more land. Quite often, they took land the Indians had already cleared for their own crops. Since the Indians were considered savages and barbarians, no consideration was given to or of them. If Indians killed a European, regardless of the circumstances or justification, it was considered an outrage and vengeance was exacted severely. In one instance, when Indians were accused of murdering a trader who had cheated them, the whites set fire to an Indian palisade. When the Indians ran out to escape the flames (many of whom were women and children) they were shot. On other occasions, when Indians died of smallpox, a disease transmitted to them by the whites, the whites considered it a sign of God's will that they should take the land. Bradford himself once called it a "divine harvest," and said the Indians died "like rotton sheep." In at least one instance, whites gave Indians blankets they knew had been infested with smallpox.

On one occasion, four hundred Indian men, women and children died when whites set fire to their palisade. The whites rejoiced in the event, described by one as follows:

And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. And when the Fort was thoroughly Fired, Command was given, that all should fall off and surround the Fort; which was readily attended by all; only one Arthur Smith being so wounded that he could not move out of the Place, who was happily espied by Lieutenant Bull, and by him rescued. The Fire was kindled on the North East Side to windward; which did swiftly over-run the Fort, to the extream Amazement of the Enemy, and great Rejoycing of our selves. Some of them climbing to the Top of the Palisade; others of them running into the very Flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their Arrows; and we repayed them with our small shot

The passage which you cited indicates Bradford's opinion that Indians were little more than vermin and savages who were best eliminated.

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