Comparison/Analysis of themes in early American LiteratureDiscuss how a theme in early American Literature (colonial days through the mid-19th century) is still extant in American life today, as...

Comparison/Analysis of themes in early American Literature

Discuss how a theme in early American Literature (colonial days through the mid-19th century) is still extant in American life today, as evidenced by a newspaper article published during the last 2 years.

This is a comparison/analysis of THEME, not of the circumstances/events in the literature/article.

I was thinking on focusing on the theme of "the American Dream". Also, I like the idea of comparing Emerson's themes of self-reliance and individuality, but have a very difficult time staying on topic when considering the element of theme.  As an anthropology major, i cannot help but focus on the cultural context of my subject, and I am afraid that I will not be able to analyze theme without analyzing the circumstances surrounding the theme.

I am not sure if I should be looking for a newspaper article which carries the theme of individuality/self-reliance.  Wouldn't that be comparing circumstances?  I have such difficulty staying on point when doing an analysis.  Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.  Thank you!


Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would also suggest that the strongest themes in the earlier writings in American literature are all faith-based:  who is God, how do we find Him, what are we supposed to do here on earth if we want to get to heaven.  This last point is a particularly applicable theme, it seems to me, foran anthropologist who has been studying human behavior:  How are we to treat our fellow man?  William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation which recounts the story of the settlers who stood on the Mayflower at the funeral of a man who mocked and scorned them, praying for his soul.  We have literary voices for years who are standing up for the rights of slaves to be free, for women to have equal rights, and for all kinds of other causes focusing on how we're to treat our fellow man.  That theme crosses time and social climates, it seems to me; and there should be plenty of current work to support that theme. 

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You could look at the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and see many of the same themes in present day life.  One of her most famous poems, "To my dear and loving husband" is a hearfelt commentary on her close bond she shares with him and the value she puts on their relationship.  She also writes several poems about motherhood and the relationships she has with her children.  She writes about having a strong will and determination to live the best life possible.  I suspect that if you read just a few of her poems, you would find connections that could be then connected to current news/events.

Below is a link to the texts of a few of her more famous poems.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I think of early American literature, I mostly think of religiously influenced living and writing.  It seemed one of the most prominent themes of that time was knowing the difference between right and wrong, and who controls everything.  I think this search for a higher power and moral compass is definitely still alive today.  Granted, the ideas have expanded even further than Puritan, Enlightenment, Romantic, etc. ideals, but humans always seem to be in search of truth.

I also think it would be interesting to weave the idea of hypocrisy into such an article.  From scorn of women in the world of Hester Prynn, to the scorn of women in the world of Scout Finch, to today, it seems things haven't changed much.