How are these two pieces of writing similar/different due to the nature of the place the writers lived in?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rather than the geographical location of the writers, "the place" in which the writers mostly lived was in their Calvinistic/Puritan thought, one which created a certain culture in the New World. For, the overriding concepts of this religious culture determined the thoughts of both William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet; with the Bible as a model for life, these Puritans perceived a direct connection between Biblical events and their lives. Nonetheless, they did differ in their responses to their locations as Bradford looked outward at them while Bradstreet internalized her experiences.

While anticipating the Romantic Movement in poetry much more than many other poems of this writer, Bradstreet's Contemplations yet reflects the conventional wisdom and theology of her time. For, in her marvel at the magnificence and wonder and beauty of Nature, this poet is recalled time and time again to her theology, In stanza 4, for example, she gazes at the sun above the "stately Oak" that she admires in its glory, understanding how the sun worshipers could make it a deity "Had I not better known (alas) the same had I." Here, too, is evidence of Bradstreet's creative conflict with her spiritual and physical world.

Living in the more established Massachusetts Colony provided Bradstreet more ease than was that afforded Bradford in the Plymouth Colony; however, there was a constant fear of Indian attacks and kidnappings as the wealthier colonists often suffered. This constant worry may have also precipitated Bradstreet's contemplation of Biblical verses and eternal life. After reflecting upon the Tree of Good and Evil and Cain and Abel, in stanza 20, she writes that although Nature is magnificent, the beauty of the heavens and earth "shall darken" and only the soul is immortal: "But man was made for endless immortality."

In his History of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford, a Separatist who found Puritanism anarchical and subversive, nevertheless includes in his history moral anecdotes on the will of God and His direction of the universe. Yet, unlike Puritan writers, he separates secular from religious concerns. One particular moral anecdote is about a sailor who is especially "profane":

...he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily with grievous execrations....hop[ing] to help cast them overboard before they came to their journey's end....

But, Bradford writes, it "pleased God" to strike this seaman with a serious disease from which he greatly suffered, and he was fittingly the first to be thrown overboard.

Certainly, Bradford's records depict more suffering than the poem of Anne Bradstreet, a circumstance that does, indeed, affect his views. For instance, because the Native Americans shoot arrows at the Pilgrims, he contrast their behavior with the barbarians whom the Apostle Paul encountered, a mercy to the Apostle and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them...were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise.

During the starving time, Bradford employs simple, minimalist, straightforward language that is more appropriate; moreover, this detailed account may move readers as it allows them to employ their own imaginations. Later, however, Bradford's tone indicates his his feelings, such as his dislike for the "Indians [who] came skulking" and his respect for Standish who cares for the sick.