ENG 201: American Literature to 1865
February 17, 2015
Nature in the Iroquois League and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
Nature is a prominent theme throughout The Iroquois Leagues’, The Great Binding Law and
Jonathan Edwards’, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The Iroquois Leagues valued and viewed nature and what is natural differently than Jonathan Edwards and that is evident in the comparison of these two writings. In The Great Binding Law man, nature and their religion are all considered one and harmonious. Meanwhile, in Jonathan Edwards’, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Edwards portrays the “natural man” as unclean and unworthy of Heaven as if man’s nature and God’s will are opposing forces. The Iroquois used examples of nature in metaphors for further explanation, illustration and emphasis on their meanings and lessons. The main image used in The Great Binding Law is “The Tree of Great Peace”. The text states, “I plant the Tree of the Great Peace…I name the tree the Tree of the
Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feather down…as seats for you…there beneath the shadow the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace…Roots have spread out from the Tree of the Great Peace, one to the north, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west. The names of these roots is The Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and
Strength”(McMichael and Leonard, 2011, p.29). This tree represents a metaphor for “The Great Binding
Law” itself. Trees are commonly a symbol of stability, strength, life and family. “The Tree of the Great
Peace” is expressed as a placed of meeting and gathering and it is also considered a protection for the
Five Nations. In the “Great Binding Law” the author describes the shadow of the tree as a protector and the roots as a roadmap to assistance and protection. “If any man or any nation outside...may trace the
Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient...they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves” (McMichael and Leonard, 2011, p.29).
The roots of the Tree of Great Peace are a symbol of “peace and strength” and continue the example of the Tree being a metaphor for “The Great Binding Law”. The roots are a calling and a hope that the ideas and truths that the Five Nations uphold will be spread across the land and nation to others.
The images of roots of a tree are often associated with having a strong foundation, traditions and being steadfast. The images of the roots are supposed to reflect the strong morals, traditions and support of the Five Nations. Roots are typically difficult to move, change or destroy. “The name of these roots is The Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and Strength” (McMichael and Leonard, 2011, p.29.) I think the author chose this image to further illustrate the belief in the need and success of “The Great Binding Law” among the Five Nations.
Jonathan Edwards portrays a different belief in