Why should current American society appreciate and respect this literature: Bradford’s experiences and writings from Of Plymouth Plantation?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The society of the United States should appreciate this literature because American histories would be incomplete without William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation.

Not simply a mere historical chronicle, though, Bradford's writing is the first to express to what has become an American trait formed from the Puritanical feeling of being committed to a predestined, historical mission. Further, Of Plymouth Plantation is a depiction of what would prove to be the harsh and often judgmental Puritanical culture that has exerted a profound impact upon the culture of this country at least until this century. For instance, when a sailor, who was "haughty and profane," cursed the unfortunate sick passengers, telling them that he hoped to throw them overboard, he was taken ill himself with "a grievous disease." Bradford writes 

...it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard.

His plain style also has been emulated by the early writers of American literature. Further, his chronicle of the tribulations of the Pilgrims and how the few tended charitably to the many sick and dying in Chapter 11 is testimony to the Christian spirit that long motivated so many Americans:

...that of 100 and odd persons, scare fifty remained. And of these, in the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations...spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires,...washed their loathsome clothes....

In contrast to the merciful Pilgrims, the sailors were like the earlier one because they refused to give the sick any care. 

Certainly, the description of the first Thanksgiving has become an intrinsic part of American culture. Also, Bradford, who heretofore has alluded to the Native Americans as "savages," meets Samoset and is impressed by his knowledge and friendliness.  Later, he honors Squanto with a detailed biography and terms him "a special instrument sent of God."

A personalized history such as that written by William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation provides not only a chronicle of events, but it also proffers an insight into what formed American culture as well as the human experience from which there is much to learn.

Read the study guide:
History of Plymouth Plantation

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question