Puritans: then and now10/01/91
The beliefs in God and man, and the view of literature have changed much from the Colonial Period to the present day. I will contrast these values from the Age of Faith, the Revolutionary War Period, and the current day.
The early Puritans viewed God as a mighty deity who controlled everyone's fate. They believed that everyone was a sinner and that people were generally bad with just a touch of good. They even dressed mostly in black, a color associated with evil, with only a little white trim, which they thought represented the little bit of good that was present. The Fire and Brimstone preachers believed that many people were not religious enough and that the only thing that was keeping them from eternal damnation was the kindness of God. The Puritans kept their lives simple. They chose not to have the luxuries of England and Europe because they viewed all good things as temptation. This succeeded in returning some people to a simpler life. The Puritans' literature mostly consisted of diaries and journals. These writings generally reflected the writers view of God. For example, Anne Bradstreet's writing about the burning of her house shows her belief in God when she refers to His house where all her worldly belongings will be. They wrote in a plain and simple style.
The Revolutionary War Period marked major changes in the lifestyle and beliefs of people. This was the start in the belief of Rationalism. Rationalism is the belief that it is possible to arrive at truth by using logic. Rationalists thought that God made the world and then stood back and watched it run. They compared this to the work of a clock maker. Deism also surfaced at this time. Deism was the same as Rationalism except that Deists believe that logic was bestowed upon man to reveal the truths of God.
eople were now more receptive to a wider range of writing because, being allowed to use logic within their religions, they were no longer restrained by the fear of the wrath of God. In this era, religion didn't require such strict behavior. They now could enjoy luxuries that they had once viewed as temptation. Benjamin Franklin introduced the idea of the self made man, where one starts with little, and then through his hard work gains excellence. In this time, many new literary devices were used, such as persuasion, propaganda, first person point of view, and aphorisms. Authors in this era printed their writings on pamphlets because they could be easily distributed to many. These let writers use propaganda to sway the public opinion on the political issues of the time.
Today, many books are written about the ethical and philosophical questions brought by modern and future technology. There are many diverse points of view on the relationship between God and man because of free thinking. Modern literature often takes the form of novels or short stories. Modern authors such as Walter Miller, Jr., George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley have written the modern classics; A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1984, and Brave New World which deal with ethics and government of future societies.
The Colonial Period and the present day contrast sharply, while the Revolutionary War Period offers a stepping stone from the past to the present American values.