Of Plymouth Plantation. By William Bradford. The Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.
Of Plymouth Plantation
By William Bradford
In 1620, the Puritans (Pilgrims) sail in treacherous seas. A storm blows the Mayflower off course, and the ship lands in present day Massachusetts. A few months after their arrival, nearly half of the 100 Pilgrims have died of disease. Native Americans befriend the Pilgrims and return the tools they had previously stolen. Squanto becomes an interpreter, guide, and teacher to the Pilgrims, who learn to provide for themselves, and celebrate the first Thanksgiving after the harvest.
Study the picture and describe how you think these people feel.
The Puritans were a serious group of people who put God and hard work first in their lives. They rarely had any time for fun or good times. They believed in strict conformity and a very strict version of God. They wore very simple clothes and did not allow dancing, which they saw as sinful against God. They believed that witches were real, and that they make a deal with the devil for their magic powers. They worked together as a community to build their towns, but this often led to a fear of outsiders and nonconformity. People who dared to threaten this world order were either banished into the woods or were killed, sometimes accused of witchcraft. The Puritans believed in a "fire and brimstone" method of preaching, and led lives in fear of an angry God. Sometimes their strictness led to horrific things happening in their community, like the Salem Witch Trials.
What would be some of the hardships that would accompany an extended sea voyage as well as the difficulties in building a colony? What hardships would the colonists face? What do you think would get them through those hardships?
Ocean travel in 17th century England was hazardous. Ships were made of wood and easily damaged if they hit shoals (sandbars or shallow spots in the water). Sometimes, strong waves caused ships to “seele”, or lurch suddenly from side to side. In fierce winds, sails were lowered by heavy ropes called, “halyards,” and ships would have to “hull” or drift at sea. Storms and wind shifts sometimes made it necessary for the Mayflower to change directions (“tack about”) and to head for (or “stand for”) a different course. Destined for Virginia, the Mayflower eventually landed on the coast of what is now Massachusetts.
The passage you are about to read is taken from William Bradford’s historic Of Plymouth Plantation. It gives an account of the pilgrims’ experiences on board the Mayflower and in the Plymouth colony in the 1620’s.
The Puritans held to a strict work ethic. They believed the devil finds work for idle hands. In England the calendar year included about 240 working days, but the Puritans worked at least 365 days a year, taking holidays only on the Sabbath, election day, Harvard commencement day, and public Thanksgiving days. The Pilgrim calendar did not include Christmas as a holiday because it was viewed as a pagan remnant.
On the Lighter Side
Puritanism – American writer H.L. Mencken said in 1949, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
If you had been living during the seventeenth century and given the opportunity to come to this new land, would you have come? Give reasons why.
Diction - A writers choice of words is called diction. It contributes greatly to Bradford’s writing style and voice. How would you describe his style on the basis of his choice of words in the opening paragraph?
Allusion – A reference to a well known piece of work, in literature, art or documented history is called Allusion. In this passage, Bradford refers, or alludes to the scriptures from the Bible. Find them.
Point of View – Throughout the selection, Bradford writes as if he were not present during these experiences. What might be his reason for using the third person plural “they” instead of writing this as a first person narrative?
Discuss what has changed in Americans perception of immigrants and what makes one iconic and the other problematic.