American Literature Early American Literature Comparison American Essay

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American Literature

Early American Literature Comparison

American literature is truly a literature of change. As the nation became independent of England, this new independence reflected in the ideals and philosophies of writers. Whereas early American literature was dominated by puritan forms, which contemplated the power of God and often were written copies of sermons or journals used by puritans, some stories still arose. These stories, filled with ideas of sin and repentance directly reflect the social limitations which puritans placed on early American society. Once the nation was founded, however, and the Constitution separated the power of the church from the government, new forms of literature were created that questioned the puritan authors and their principles. These literary styles included the romantics, transcendentalists, and abolitionists whose works stemmed from new sources of the mind and the new free nation around them. Regardless of these new forms, another type of literature known as Neo-classical literature arose in Europe and made its way to America. In direct disagreement with the now prominent forms of literature, and raising questions as to the existence of God and the essentialist of morality. Once again, it was the role of the American writers to challenge this European idea and hold fast to the principles of democracy and fundamental liberty.

While opposite in message, America's puritan and neo-classical literature had many common characteristics to which the transcendentalists, romantics, and abolitionists chose to challenge. These challenges can be directly seen within the literature and include the role of God, nature, and human morality.

One the primary differences between the two groups is their position on God. The puritans were staunch Christians, proclaiming God's judgment and power. In the words of puritan minister Jonathan Edward's writings, "Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come." The puritans strongly believed that the only means of avoiding judgment in the next life was through repentance. In the opposite direction, Neoclassicism chose to reject God entirely and instead focused on the prowess and accomplishments of man. The response given to this was most strongly presented by the Romantic and Transcendentalist writers of the time, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson argue that staunch religion is not necessary to discover God, but rather God can be found in nature. In his book Self-Reliance, Emerson argues "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." In other words, one must understand themselves and reach into nature to truly understand God.

Another difference between the two groups lies within their understanding of nature. The neoclassic authors focused primarily on the decadence of society paying little heed to nature. This stems primarily from the industrial revolution in Europe, the ideas of which bled over into American literature. The Romantics however, focused their entire works on nature and exemplified a sense of awe when understanding the science and beauty within. In Walden Thoreau focuses…

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