Reflection of American History in Literary Works

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From the early beginnings up to 1865 America was being created and shaped into the country it is today. Early civilization started with Native Americans. ‘Iroquois Creation’ by David Cusick was written during the Native American literary period. During this time authors focused on storytelling. The creation story shows speeches, tales and poetry of the Native American oral tradition. In this short story the author describes the foundation of what is now called North America. “When he made the universe, he was in doubt reception some being to possess the Great Island; and he formed two images…male and female, and by his breathing into their he gave them the living souls” (Cusick). Those lines symbolize that the author is telling his story on how creation began. The cultural aspect of the text shows that the creation was by a woman, which shows that women were valued in their society. It also shows the belief systems of the new world. Each person has the own beliefs because of different cultures. Cusick shows his with the good and bad twin. “And one of the possessed with a gentle disposition, and name enigone, i.e. the good mind. The other youth possessed an insolence of character and was named enigonhahetagea i.e. the bad mind” (Cusick). These lines symbolize the nature in human beings, which is good or bad.

Powhatan was chief of confederacy. ‘Discourse of Peace and War’ by Powhatan was written during the colonial period. This period focused on trade, wealth, and religion. Native Americans believed that land was a gift from the creator. This means land should be use for welfare of people. English settlers saw a different view from natives. In this letter to John smith the chief pleas for peace. Powhatan contribution to this colonial period was his trading: “let this therefore assure you of our loves and every year our friendly trade shall furnish you with corn” (Powhattan). This shows he is trading with the English settlers. He showed the political view through his words reflecting doubt of English settlers. “From Nadsamund, what you are come to destroy my country. So much affrighted all my people” (Powhatan). He is showing his concern and doubt of the English settlers and conflicts they bring about. Powhatan believed helping and providing for the people. He mostly stuck to his cultural beliefs: “and why are you this jealous of our loves seeing us unarmed and both do and are willing still to feed you” (Powhatan). The author is expressing the cultural belief of no matter the amount of wrong of people provide for the general welfare. The conflicts of Europeans and Native Americans brought a lot of dark history to America.

John Smith’s ‘A Description of New England’ was also written during the colonial period. In this text Smith spurs interest of the region he named New England. The description in the text describes the culture and society of English colonization. Smith shows his political aspects by leading New England. “For necessity doth in these cases so rule a commonwealth, and each in there several functions, as their labors in their qualities may be as profitable, because there is a necessary mutual use of all” (Smith). John Smith shows which side of the political spectrum he is on, which is conservatism. Conservatist believed that people should rely less on the government. The culture of the colonist was to acquire wealth. ‘A Description of New England’ and Powhatan ‘Discourse of Peace and War’ show a clash between cultures. This clash constituted the beginning of American humanity.

‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ by Jonathan Edwards was written during the Puritan movement. During this movement religion was very popular. There were many societal issues about different beliefs, but everyone followed one religion. In this sermon Edwards was trying to convince colonist to convert to the puritan religion. “Which one believes in Christ God is of no obligation to keep him from hell” (Edwards). This shows his belief in the puritan culture, which was believe in Christ or be in hell. People of the Puritan society were constantly reminded of the consequences of sinning. Puritan also seen liberalism as a threat. The title “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” symbolizes the attack against liberalism. “All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell” (Edwards). He is describing his attack against liberalism. Edwards believed that liberalism was ruining the purity of his church. This religious movement brought many conflicts to the colonies. Today conflict is still seen between religions because of past historical beliefs.

‘What is an American’ by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur was written during the Revolutionary Era. This was an era of many battles and rebellion. During this time America gained independence from Great Britain giving American freedom. The letter describes the American nationality. Hector shows culture by describing the American society. “We have no princes for whom we toil, starve, and bleed; we are the most perfect society now existing in the world. Here man is free as he ought to be” (Hector). Here the author describes the perfect like culture and society of Americans. He shows his contribution to the revolutionary period by expressing his feelings of thankfulness. “This is the great chain which links us all this is the picture which every province exhibit. The crown has done all” (Hector). These lines reflect the U.S. gaining independence form Great Britain which relates to the revolutionary period. This letter also describes how American was a new society that sustained freedom and prosperity. The diction used in the federalist papers shows it was also written the Revolutionary Period.

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‘The Federalist Papers’ were written by John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. Madison contributes to the Revolutionary Era by telling citizen to solve their problems, “he is attached, provides a proper cur frit”. Madison also shows how the America was failing as a society by stating, “the instability, injustice and confusion introduced into the public councils have in truth been the mortal diseases…”. In the papers Hamilton shows his political aspects of federalism. Federalist wanted unity and a strong central government where the power relies in government rather than people. Hamilton states, “or will flatter themselves with fairer prospect of elevation from subdivision of empire into several partial confederacies, than from its union under one government”. This expresses his fear of the people having too much power instead of central government. These federalist papers ratified the constitution and helped shaped the government system of America. Today the government system is still used to ensure a good government, state and locally.

Judith Sargent Murray’s ‘On the Equality of the Sexes’ was written during the post-revolutionary period. American was becoming a new nation again. In this text Murray expresses how gender effects society norms. Judith contributes to this era by discussing the lack of equality and rights. The lack of equality and rights during this era was due to religion and society. She shows her sociocultural belief to the historical period by stating, “Nature has not given intellectual ability solely to the ale sex, but society is arranged if this were so…”. She is expressing here belief that society would one day correct its assumption that women are inferior to men. The lack of equality throughout the years has brought much conflict between males and females in America.

‘On Being brought from Africa to America’ by Phillis Wheatley was written during the colonial period. Phillis wheatley was an African American slave brought to Boston from Africa. Wheatley’s poem contributes to the colonial period because of the trading of a slave. The lines, “Once I redemption neither sought nor knew” (Wheatley). This shows that Phillis converted to Christianity, which was very popular during this period. This poem shows there could by change in America. Even though there is no slavery, there is still inequality.

The poem ‘Thanatopsis’ was written by William Cullen Bryant during the Romantic Era. During romanticism many authors used the technique of blank verse. William does this in poem to show the romantic style. Authors of this era mainly focused on, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, individualism and humanity. They also believed man were one with nature. “The golden sun, the planets, all the infinite host of heaven, are shining on the sad abodes of death…” (Bryant). This is an example of being part of nature. In the beginning of the poem Bryant states, “She has a voice of gladness, and a smile and eloquence of beauty”. This symbolizes the happiness and wisdom doings that nature brings, which was part of the romantic culture. “Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust” (Bryant). This shows the romantic culture of following feelings instead of reason.

‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne submerges into the dark romantic period. Authors had themes of self-destruction and good vs evil. Dark romanticism had a gothic style of writing. In the short story Goodman’s wife symbolizes his religious beliefs which was puritan Christianity. His departure into wood symbolizes his turning away from conservatives, which is his political aspect to the text.

Lastly, Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’ was written during the transcendentalism period. The authors during this period were influenced by individualism. Transcendentalists were people of nature. They believed people and nature were inherently good. This was also a period of religion and philosophy. Whitman’s title contributes to this period as it shows individualism. The first line of the poem “I celebrate myself and sing myself” is a political view of democracy. It shows that many individuals will speak for self to make a democracy. The sixth section in the poem uses grass to symbolize democracy. The lines “I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, nature without check with original energy” (Whitman), contribute to nature. “The western turkey shooting draws old and young; some lean on their rifles, some sit on logs” (Whitman). This shows a cultural event during the time period. The political relation this text has with society is democracy must include all people equally or it will fail. Today American still struggles with equality.

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Reflection of American History in Literary Works. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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