• Alyssa Proctor

Early American English Literature

Religious freedom was a new and celebratory topic to write about, considering that before people immigrated to America, they were simply subject to accepting the religion of their family line. However, when people came to America, they now had to decide which religious practices they would partake in, instead of that decision being made for them already.

The Native Americans had lived life for hundreds of years without the influence of outer sources except for one another’s tribes, which had minor differences in practices and beliefs. The immigrants had a vast difference in their ways and beliefs and claimed to be acceptive of new ways of life, although this was unfortunately not always true. The Europeans and settlers had fled to America for religious freedom, yet they were making numerous attempts to try to oppress the Native Americans to convert to Christianity. This was a common topic written about, as there were frequent occasions of conflict between the two parties.

Along with religion the Native Americans often wrote about being forced to trade with currency instead of goods. One man had the feeling that,

“I have grown up, and lived this long without work-I am in hopes you will suffer me to die without it. We have plenty of buffalo, beaver, deer and other wild animals-we also have an abundance of horses-we have everything we want…” (Petalesharo 314).

Before people immigrated to America there was not a need for an official currency, and several of the Native Americans passionately opposed adapting to trade by a currency.

A new occurrence and conflict which has never taken place before is the vast intertwining of racial family lines by marriage. Several individuals contemplated the ethics of the issue, and whether it would later develop problems for the couple, as few knew the long-term health consequences of adjoining vastly different lineage lines through matrimony.

Simple literature was commonly written in early American literature, perhaps it was for documentation purposes or limited time allowances, although it would not be for a few years that the art of literature would begin to rise. When people migrated to America, the amounts of items which they could bring was extremely limited. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that there were not several eloquent examples of the English language for the Americans to continue studying when they settled. In pieces of early American literature, there were blunt overall meanings, instead of them consisting of hidden and rather discreet metaphors. In previously written literature we can observe the art of entangling and intertwining an underlying meaning found within pieces of literature. Although American literature was becoming rather blunt and direct for a time, until the artistic side of literature was reintroduced as education system began to advance and improve in America. Soon, different grammatical formats were sparking, and an American style of poetry began to evolve.

Common American literature themes seemed to discuss religion, slavery, and topics which were rather unescapable in frequented public conversations. Due to there being a constant large threat of war and social conflict through the era, most individuals felt some form of depression or sadness. Especially the slaves felt helpless, considering that for many years they were entrapped within the system, and severely mistreated. People often wrote about their seldom or depressed times and phases in order to properly cope with their emotions. Themes in American literature were often someone writing of their own personal experiences and documenting their nonfictional life. We can see how many settlers documented their early American lives, by recording their day to day happenings in what is called a diary. As the times got less serious and allotted for recreational writing time, fictional stories were then beginning to be released to the public merely for entertainment and happiness purposes.

Slavery in America was a horrible era which during the process of solving left the slaves to feel helplessly lost in the system. Perhaps prayer was the only action which they could take in hopes of the system ending. The slaves felt rather powerless and believed that for them there was,

"No legislative power is vested in us; we can do nothing to overthrow the system, even if we wished to do so" (Grimke 784).

Few candidates were passionately opposing slavery in the United States at the time, due to the social consequences which would occur among their personal lives because of their political beliefs. Instead, the direct question of opposing slavery was answered by the politician stating that they opposed the slave trade from Africa and made efforts to conversationally pivot from the original question asked. This arising issue of slavery was indeed what later caused further conflicts, which later resulted in sparking the Civil War. The astonishing fact is how despite the United States being regarded as the country of freedom for everyone, yet the country was selectively providing citizens with freedom instead of it being across the board and a right to everyone, even though it was claimed to be. Considering “First, that slavery is contrary to the declaration of our independence” (Grimke 783) it is surprising how long it remained to exist and be practiced. Several people whom did not see the severe error of ethics in slavery, yet being served by slaves were often asked to “…try to ameliorate their condition as much as possible…” (Grimke 785), considering how cruel the living habitats of the slaves were, feeling sympathetic and sorrow for them would not have been a question.

Benjamin Franklin was indeed one very influential and respected writer of American literature. Although writing was not his only career, he still maintained a rather polished side career of it, and often partook in releasing a highly regarded writing piece. He was very immersed in beautiful and eloquent English literature, through his social relations and desire to read books, so it is not surprising that it came so naturally for him.

Franklin believed in enhancing his education to the fullest, in order to ensure that he would always be compatible with any sort of task which he was assigned. This innate desire to become highly educated began at a rather young age for Franklin, so his knowledge was years ahead of others whom were his age.

The quotes which he wrote give insight to his constant mentality and beliefs. Perhaps his quotes are the key recipe of how he achieved such a successful life. One saying of his which I try to live by is,

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise" (“A Quote…”).

Although my attempts at this habit are not as consistent as possible, it severely increases my productivity when I wake up earlier. At twenty-four years old, Franklin’s healthy habits and motivation had made him the,

“.. sole owner of a successful printing shop as well as the editor and publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette” (Franklin 440).

I truly respect and aspire to obtain some of Franklin’s traits, as his lifestyle earned him great success and influence in America. We can acknowledge how through his demonstration of dedication and hard work, he implanted an everlasting impact upon people in America for years to come. He is by far on of my favorite authors and people to read about in American literature.

Works Cited

“A Quote by Benjamin Franklin.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33937-early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise-makes-a-man.

Franklin, Benjamin. ”Benjamin Franklin.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, Beginnings to 1820, 9 ed., edited by Robert S. Levine, Norton, 2017, pp. 440.

Grimke, Angelina E. “Slavery, Race, and the Making of American Literature.” American Literature, 1820-1865, edited by Robert S. Levine, 9th ed., Volume B, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 784.

Petalesharo. “Speech of the Pawnee Chief.” Norton Anthology: American Literature Beginnings-1865, edited by Robert Levine, Vol. A. and B, 9th edition. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2017. 314.


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