Compare And Contrast The Lives And Writing Of Anne Bradstreet And Phillis Wheatley

Compare the poetry of Anne Bradstreet to Phillis Wheatley as to theme, tone, use of symbols/imagery and place in American literature with quotes.

Asked on by monarie

1 Answer

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I'm certainly no expert on either Phillis Wheatley or Anne Bradstreet, but I have read several selections by each of them.  As I see no one else has answered your question, I'll share my observations and hope you find them helpful.  Bradstreet's work is a little older than Wheatley's, and it was written as private work which was never intended to be published.  Her poetry was primarily personal in terms of content--devotional/spiritual and emotional reflections.  Her work is structured formally (as in clear rhyming patterns and rhythms) and there are few surprises poetically in her work.  Instead, we read the simple, straightforward reflections of a woman who loves God, her husband, and her home. 

Wheatley, on the other hand, is a much more sophisticated poet.  While Bradstreet was a devout believer and early settler in America, Wheatley was a black woman who had clearly been given some formal educational training.  She uses many allusions (references to things outside the literature), including mythology and the Bible.  Her work is not all particularly patterned (again, I don't claim to have read all her work, so take that into account) or rhymed.  Her poetry is more lyrical and full of imagery than Bradstreet's, and her subject matter is more connected to her circumstances in life as a black woman brought from Africa to America. 

Both women reflect on spiritual themes (for example, Bradstreet thanks God even when her house burns down, and Wheatley expresses her thankfulness to God for letting her come to America).

I wish I had more, but that should at least get you thinking about the selections you've read and will prompt some new ideas about which you can reflect.