American Literature Week 6 Cotton, Winthrop, and Rowlandson

Prompt: “Discuss the views of Cotton, Winthrop, and Rowlandson regarding the Puritans’ errand in the wilderness.”

John Cotton felt at the time that he was not needed in the American colonies, but he did play a major role in convincing Europeans to face this unknown wilderness. He gave public sermons telling the people how righteous this endeavor was; it was Gods plan and the Europeans were the chosen people. He wished them Godspeed, describing them as seeds that would be planted in the garden of the new world. He told them that if they held strong to the words of God and the old testament their faith would deliver them to salvation.

John Winthrop was much less idealistic in his views on the blossoming colonies. He was a realist, theorizing on how a society of Puritans could be built and maintained in this unforgiving new terrain. He knew the system of hierarchy would be very different in these new colonies compared to the systems in Europe, and he knew that if there was no clear sovereign many problems would arise. He was also very practical when it came to an economic standpoint; he knew men wouldn’t want to work for nothing. The only way to get around this issue would be to label it as Christian charity. He preached that this new colony would be a demonstration to the world of what a society based on Christian values could look like. If each man gave charity to his neighbor, without expecting anything for his labor only then would God smile upon his society. This is where the term “city on the hill” originated.

Mary Rowlandson was a colonial woman who had been captured by natives and held for 11 months before being ransomed back. She wrote the book Captivity and Restoration, in which she tells about her experiences in the hands of the natives. This memoir became one of the first best sellers, and the first book written by a woman to become worldly adored. It tells her point of view about the differences in native culture compared to christian culture, and it tells her point of view on the wilderness she found herself in. She described the wilderness as harsh, desolate, and full of brutal barbarians. She lost her child to the wilderness. She was abused, starved, ridiculed, and tortured at the hands of the natives. She described several to be kind, but they were certainly the minority.

The main point of her memoir was comparing the cruelness she saw in the natives to the kindness she saw in the christians. It was also a major testimony to her faith. She said that her spirits had been extremely low throughout most of her travels, and that she often felt like she would meet her demise or that God would turn his back on her. But throughout all of this she held strong to her faith, and in the end she was delivered safely back to her colony. She gave credit solely to God, and became a motivation for other people of faith to brave the new world.

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