What is The New Land by John Smith about in an American literary context? 

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Smith is an English explorer who traveled to America in 1607 and was instrumental in setting up the first colony in Jamestown, Virginia, apparently saving the people from starvation and disease, but not without disagreement and dissent and disputes on board the ship in which he almost got himself hanged. He wrote various accounts including A Description of New England in which The New Land can be found.

Smith contends that this new country is for everyone and requires only hard work on the land or through fishing in the well-stocked seas where long hours and daily graft will be a thing of the past and where people, with previously nothing to aspire to will live "exceeding well." He uses this angle to persuade English people of "small means" that they will have no problems with land ownership in America. Smith reflects on the desire of most men to benefit from their own land, especially when it comes at "the hazard of his life" and confirms that only good things can come from this new land and all in honor of England, "Our native Mother Country."

This account by Smith, and the greater work itself, A Description of New England, has contributed to historical records, although Smith is known for embellishing stories and making claims elevating and extolling himself unjustly. Even the famous Pocahontas story from Smith's later works raises many questions. However, without his account and his ability to report his own and other people's exploits, much of the information of the time period would have been lost. 

For all the controversy he attracts, he therefore reflects the American pioneering spirit in The New Land. His descriptions are somewhat poetic and romantic but he was trying to persuade people to give up their lives in England and travel to this unknown land where they could enjoy pursuits usually reserved for the gentry in England. He says, "What exercise should more delight them, than ranging daily these unknown parts, using fowling and fishing, for hunting and hawking/..."