Many early American writers had a preoccupation with the natural world. Choose two texts from our textbook, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ninth edition, and compare and contrast the ways in which the natural world influenced these writings and how the portrayal of the natural world reflects the author's broader purpose in the construction of their texts.

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Your first step in completing this assignment is to decide on two texts to compare. You might select William Bradford and take a close look at his Of Plymouth Plantation. You will notice, perhaps, that nature is often something of an enemy to Bradford and his companions as they struggle to make a life for themselves in the wilderness. Pay close attention to the sections discussing the sea voyage and the initial settlement.

If you are interested in poetry, you might select Edward Taylor's "Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold." The natural world again influences this poem, and once again, nature is seen as something rather dangerous and destructive, or at least uncaring about the creatures within it. Taylor, however, uses this reflection to turn his mind to God and look through the natural world to see Him.

Another good possibility lies in J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer. Pay special attention to the letter on snakes and a hummingbird. The creatures in this letter become symbolic of the struggles of human life.

Finally, you might use the excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia that deals with the natural bridge. Jefferson focuses on the sublimity of nature and how the natural world creates various responses in the human viewer. Jefferson's purpose in the work was to promote his native state and show that it is in no way inferior to the Old World.

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