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Early American Literature: Puritans Vs. Native Americans

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Early Puritans led simple, modest lives, free of materialistic temptations. According to today's high standards, Puritans appear to have led almost primitive lives. However, in that time in history, their humble homes were a large part of their daily lives, and they were viewed upon as being a gift from God. In her poem, Anne Bradstreet describes the importance of her house, despite the fact that she chastises herself for yielding to the temptations of vanity and materialism.

Religion was, for the Puritans, first and foremost in their lives. To them, religion was centered around the Covenant, a personal, inner connection with God in which God promised to provide support and protection in return for loyal devotion and good works. As a result, the poem concentrates on the author's personal relationship with God. Bradstreet's first reaction is to lament over the fact that her house has burned down and all of her possessions have been devastated. After some thought however, Bradstreet realizes that it was originally God who provided her with these material assets in the first place, and it was therefore just of Him to rid her of them, especially if He believed that she was becoming too centered around the material world in which the Puritans had fled from. In the end, in spite of her initial grieving, Bradstreet realizes that it is necessary that she focus on obtaining salvation in the eyes of God and that it is God's heavenly home that is important, rather than the house whose ashes lie before her. Ultimately, it is Bradstreet's belief that God will protect and provide for her as a result of the Covenant that allows her to dismiss the paltry gloom she possesses at the loss of her home.

Puritan ideology required that they observe both the inner and outer events of their lives, a philosophy that significantly affected their literature. In the poem, Bradstreet's inner emotions, such as grief and sorrow, set the path to salvation. At the same time, external events, such as the burning of her house, contain messages from God. This poem is a testimony to Bradstreet's revelation, the belief that God reveals His purpose by means of divine intervention through natural events. Through this one event, the fire, God is able to prove to Bradstreet that His "heavenly home" is more important than her "material home" and that "material goods" are not found on Earth, but in Heaven, which consequently leads her on the road to salvation. On the other hand, Puritan literature does not simply focus on the crossing of the spiritual and physical worlds. While Bradstreet's poem extracts a valuable message on the inside, on the surface it helps to document the pleasurable moments the author felt while in the house. Had there been no conflict between her love of things in the material world, and her love of things in the spiritual world, her reactions, and consequently the entire poem, would have been quite different.

The basis of Native American ideology held that the

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