In what ways do rhetorical features reflect William Bradford's intent and ideological perspective in the following quote from History of Plymouth Plantation? “But here I cannot but stay and make...
In what ways do rhetorical features reflect William Bradford's intent and ideological perspective in the following quote from History of Plymouth Plantation?
“But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor people’s present condition; and so I think will the reader, too, when he well considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation… they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour…. And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms…. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men—and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not."
By emphasizing the suffering that the Pilgrims experienced, not just in the New World, but at home, Bradford means to draw attention to their ultimate success. One strand of History of Plymouth Plantation is what is now known as "providentialist history," in other words, a history that draws attention to the role of God in providing for a chosen people and helping them overcome all obstacles.
Thus Bradford, in this passage and elsewhere, emphasizes the "sharp and violent" winters of New England, as well as the "hideous and desolate wilderness" they confronted in establishing Plymouth as a colony. It is clear that Bradford believes, at least early in the book, that God has smiled on their endeavor, otherwise it would not have been successful. His tone would change later in his account, as he ascribes many of their struggles in the future to a lapse in their original mission and in their commitment to a holy society.
On the level of ideology and rhetoric, some readers may detect in the description of a wilderness full of "wild beasts and wild men" a justification for conquering both, an attitude that eventually led to major conflict between Plymouth and the Wampanoags. It is well known that when the Pilgrims arrived, they discovered cultivated fields and well-developed villages emptied of Indian people by an outbreak of smallpox, and that they attributed these developments to the will of God, who had evidently cleared the landscape of "wild men."