The Puritans have played an enormous role in American literature, and their ideas still influence moral judgment and some religious beliefs in the United States. Puritan writing has been used to glorify God and to relate God more directly to people’s world. Puritan literature was straightforward and focused on teaching from a biblical perspective. Puritan literature was dominated by a religious rather than an entertainment theme. In their books, Puritan writers often compare themselves or struggle with adversity to the characters in the Bible. Thus, the importance of religious references is that the author shows the reader the difficulties people face in the Bible, whose example should be followed in real life.
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The Puritans did not believe in writing for fun; instead, they thought writing was a tool to convey the story of God to people. The works focused on realistic messages, illustrating that everyone was born a sinner and that their salvation was predetermined, a concept known as predestination. Bradford uses biblical hints throughout the history of the Plymouth Plantation to present the history of the plantation to the reader per biblical events and authority important to the Puritans.
In Chapter 9, Bradford mentions that “our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice” (Bradford 153). Here the author used a reference to the biblical Book of Numbers. The uprisings of the Israelites against Moses and God, which are described in the book of numbers, contain an allusion to the unwillingness to die in the wilderness to conquer the Promised Land. Thus, Bradford not only compares the Pilgrims to the Israelites but also shows some superiority. This is reflected through the Pilgrims’ willingness to die to conquer the Promised America. Pilgrims do not rebel against God but accept their fate and do everything in the name of Jesus.
In chapter 10, the biblical episode is associated with piles of sand in which the Pilgrims found “diverse, fair Indian baskets filled with corn, and some in-ears, fair and good, of diverse colors” (Bradford 163). Thus, this episode illustrates an allusion to the biblical story of a vine found by scouts in the Eshkol Valley. The Pilgrims themselves point to the allusion, who, like the scouts, descended into an unfamiliar area.
Thus, Puritan literature and biblical allusions are aimed at enlightenment and familiarity with the Bible. Through references, Puritan writers also show the importance of religion and the ability to withstand adversity. Bradford uses a variety of explicit and implicit allusions in his work, reflecting the messages of the Pilgrims’ mission. Through references, he also shows the history and development of the plantation, its improvements after the arrival of the Pilgrims, and their religion.
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1952.