American Literature Essay

Submitted By Susanoo24
Words: 4228
Pages: 17

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” “Resistance to Civil Government,” and “Success is Counted Sweetest” are but a few volumes out of thousands of others that are interlocked and related in some form or another. What binds these texts together? The American Dream, the ideal which not only adapts to social stimuli or occurrences, but also shapes the motives of every protagonist or antagonist --archaic or contemporary -- in their respective tales. Said theme in American Literature evolves to suit and reflect society -- from the Colonial and Revolutionary periods to the Post-Modern Ages -- and is prevalent in both molding modern culture and addressing such’s issues. In short, the American Dream reverberates through the ages, changing as it endures time, and allowing observers to address both their wishes and the desires of their community. It is a time of discovery -- both of self and land -- and legions of settlers disembark from their former, British lives to partake in the delights of the New World; these are the Puritans, and they exist in a time devoted to theology and other deity-based interests. From dawn to dusk, earning the favor of God is of critical concern; those who denounce this lifestyle are ostracized, and above all else, Science bows to God. This, however, changes in the middle of the Colonial Era, when settlers begin to harbor an unyielding desire for the Sciences. The pilgrims stray from prior teachings, and adopt new ideals of literature and thought to accommodate this. In time, these once-unacceptable concepts evolve to reject Britain’s tyranny, and actively speak out against the parent nation’s draconic nature; a call for Revolution has been sounded, a want for science established. It can be seen of the changes in thought of the colonial peoples that such ideas would bleed into the fields of literature. With the rising of alchemy and science, American Colonists denounce the humility and spirituality of the early settlers’ lives in favor of more logical explanations to life. To combat this, a Zealot Puritan launches a campaign against such ethereal perversion with speeches of force, fury, fear: the priest’s name is Jonathan Edwards, and he is largely successful in his endeavors to rid the pilgrims of their audacity. Such is seen in Edwards’s highly acclaimed speech, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which he claims the very maw of Tartarus wishes to claim the souls of the impure, and an enraged God would gladly pass the lost spirits into the inferno if not for repentance and an engrained fear of the Puritan’s deity. A fear spreads across the colonies as a divine plague, and all who encounter Jonathan Edwards’ sermons take in their own primal fears of the earned eternal torment. Hopes of decadence and corruption fade, and are replaced with an American Dream of humility and terror. Such is both to fear and aim to appease God in a lifetime of both active spiritual service and simplicity. A life of scarcity is expected, and any attempts to revive the Sciences are met with suspicion of a denouncing of society’s American Dream as a whole. As a result, xenophobia and overzealous Christianity became accepted in order to preserve the Colonial American Dream of spiritual service and unparalleled humility, and a diversion from this is met with outrage and fear, as in Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, or in The Crucible. However, the American Dream of the Colonial Era expanded and evolved in time to accommodate the life-long directives of the succeeding generation of Americans: those who exist in the Revolutionary Age. In a chronological period of oppression and alienation, the soon-to-be Rebels seek out secession from the British Empire due to high, province-biased taxes and draconic rule enforced by the monarchial rule of King George III. Faced with a jealous state bearing down on the fledgling America, a new dream is borne forth by Thomas Paine and fellow insurrectionists,