Colonial America

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How can one compare the writings of Anne Bradstreet, Phillis Wheatley, Sarah Kemble Knight, Frances Harper, Angelina Grimke’, and Sarah Edwards?

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Much early American literature is didactic; that is, it is intended to teach, to present a moral or religious statement. And, the writings of Bradstreet, Wheatley, Knight, Harper, Grimke, and Edwards exhibit this didactic characteristic along with a certain religiosity.  For example, Phillis Wheatley, who was a slave brought to Boston, but well educated and given her freedom, wrote in "On Being Brought from Africa to America" of her gratitude for having been made a Christian, and she urges other Christians to realize that all people can be saved.

'Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a saviour too....
Remember, Christians, Negroes black as Cain
May be refined and join the angelic strain.

Frances Harper, an African-American abolitionist, too, alluded to God's mercy in her poem, "A Double Standard":

 I’m glad God’s ways are not our ways,
 He does not see as man,
Within His love I know there’s room
For those whom others ban.

Angelina Grimble, whose writing was during the nineteenth century, however,delivers the religious message that slavery is wrong. An abolitionist, Grimble felt that slavery was a sin, and by doing away with slavery, people could be absolved of their sins.

An adventurous and shrewd Sarah Kemble Knight writes of her trip from Boston to New York as she rides her horse to the Dutch settlement where she observes the "Litigious" inhabitants who even barter with sheep dung. However, with humor, Knight remarks upon their act of paying the Parson with this dung, and loaning the sheep for one night in order to fertilize a field, adding with humor, "But were once Bit by a sharper who had them a night and sheared them all before morning." Interspersed in her journalistic style are rhymes and her didactic religious words after her arrival home,

But desire sincerely to adore my Great Benefactor for thus graciously carrying forth and returning in safety his unworthy handmaid.

Also a deeply pious woman, and the wife of the Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards, Sarah Edwards had profound spiritual experiences. Once when a visiting preacher came, Mrs. Edwards wrote,

“intenseness of my feelings again took away my bodily strength. … I could with difficulty refrain from rising from my seat and leaping for joy.”

Another Puritan, Anne Bradstreet also interpreted all that occurred as the part of her destiny designed by God. In her poem "Upon the Burning of Our House" in 1666, Bradstreet concludes,

It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.

Truly, then, all of these women were women of great conviction and piety. 

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