ENG 2223 American Literature I

Module 2 Writing Assignment Questions

Directions: Answer each discussion question below thoroughly and with complete sentences and proper grammar. Be sure to include specific references from the literature and from the module notes whenever possible in order to support your ideas. Points will be deducted for insufficient evidence to prove your answer. Credit will not be given for one-word answers (yes, no, etc.).


  1. What does Bradstreet’s poetry reveal about Puritan ideas of the proper role of women? Note how, in writing her poetry, she both rejects and accepts (Prologue stanza 7) John Winthrop’s standards for women as he revealed them – first, in describing Mrs. Hopkins’s failure to attend “to such things as belong to women” and, second, in his “Speech to the General Court” (“The Woman’s own choice”).
    1. Bradstreet’s poetry reveals the Puritan ideas regarding the proper role of women were to be housewives and serve their families. Their duties were to raise the children and tend to the husband and home. Writing was frowned upon by the Puritans as unseemly behavior for women (Concise Anthology of American Literature 78). Bradstreet knew she would have to resist the orthodox views regarding the role of women if she wanted to keep pursuing her passion for writing. Bradstreet gave readers a further idea of the Puritan views regarding women’s roles when she wrote “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits” in her poem The Prologue. This stanza shows readers that Bradstreet has accepted these views but has chosen to try to resist them. In the stanza “Men have precedency and still excel, It is but vain unjustly to wage war; Men can do best, and women know it well. Preeminence in all and each is yours; Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours” readers are shown that Bradstreet is standing up for women and demanding that even though it is accepted that men are better, women should at least be recognized as well. John Winthrop further describes the roles of women in his journals. On the April 13, 1645 entry Winthrop states that Mrs. Hopkins had given herself wholly to reading and writing and since her husband was so tender he let it go on until it was too late. He goes on to state that Mrs. Hopkins should have tended to her household duties and not “meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc.” showing readers that the Puritans saw the women as inferior beings. Winthrop goes further in his “Speech to the General Court” stating that “The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband; yet being so chosen, he is her lord”.
  2. Does a reading of Bradstreet’s poems support the argument that her writing shows an unresolved conflict between her inner feelings and the doctrines of Puritan orthodoxy? Does such a reading suggest that she yearned for worldly joys and at the same time recognized her Puritan obligation to observe the duties of the spirit?
    1. Bradstreet’s poems suggest an unresolved conflict between her inner feelings and the orthodox Puritan doctrines. It is clear that Bradstreet feels a sense of unfairness trying to overcome those looking down on her for her writings. She wishes to be considered an equal but knows that will never happen. The stanza “Men have precedency and still excel, It is but vain unjustly to wage war; Men can do best, and women know it well. Preeminence in all and each is yours; Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours” in her poem The Prologue shows that she longed for the worldly joys of her writing and that she was very brave to speak out during this time period but it also shows that she is acknowledging her duties as a puritan woman and knows her place in society.
  3. In “Upon the Burning of Our House,” how just is the argument that, in spite of the poem’s pious conclusion, the feeling of loss expressed in stanzas four, five, and six, (including the lament in stanza four that God had not “sufficient for us left”) reveals a faltering in Bradstreet’s Puritan faith, a lack of firm belief in the conventional idea that such a calamity on earth is of little significance because riches and delights await her in heaven?
    1. The sadness Bradstreet’s words radiate in Upon the Burning of Our House shows the struggle she is feeling with her faith and lack of firm belief in the conventional idea that the tragedy of losing her home is of little significance because riches and delights await her in heaven. Lines such as “but yet sufficient for us left” and “that dunghill mists away may fly” lead readers to see doubts Bradstreet is experiencing. 
  4. Readers quickly learn that Bradstreet felt a strong love for her husband through “To My Dear and Loving Husband” and “A Letter to Her Husband Absent Upon Public Employment.” Give at least three examples (with literature references) of how Bradstreet emphatically describes her relationship with her husband. Also, what metaphors does Bradstreet use to describe her feelings related to the presence and absence of her husband in “A Letter to Her Husband…”?
    1. Bradstreet provides many detailed descriptions that shows readers the deep connection she felt with her husband and the love she had for him. 
  1. She compared them to being one person – “If ever two were one, then surely we”.
  2. She cherished his love more than anything else – “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold”.
  • She compared him to the sun showing how important he is to her life – “My sun is gone so far in’s zodiac”.
    1. Bradstreet uses metaphors to describe how her husband’s presence makes her feel. In her poem A letter to Her Husband Absent Upon Public Employment, Bradstreet refers to her husband as her “magazine of earthly store” meaning everything she cherishes on earth is within him. She also refers to him as her “Sun” and the “Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone”.


  1. What similarities are there between the captivity narratives and the novels, soap operas, and movies that have supplanted them in the popular culture of contemporary America?
    1. There are many similarities between the captivity narratives and the novels, soap operas, and movies that have supplanted them in the popular culture of contemporary America. A lot of TV dramas today follow the same storyline of the damsel in distress such as Mary Rowlandson’s plight with the Indians. 
  2. Discuss Rowlandson’s frequent interpretation of her fate as symbolic of the experience of the Christian who is a captive of the devil and his demons but is chosen to survive (through religion) in order to understand fate and to record life’s adventures for the comfort and edification of others.
    1. “Like other zealous Christians she (Mary Rowlandson) came to see her fate in symbolic religious terms: The Indians were instruments for Satan come to test her faith, she, a pious believer was tormented to show God’s mysterious will to bring pain as well as joy; and her final escape was a lesson to “make us the more to acknowledge His hand and to see that our help is always in him” (Concise Anthology of American Literature 125). 
  3. Rowlandson’s experiences have roused interest because she was a woman. Discuss her treatment as a woman. What was expected of her in Indian society? What was her reaction to the treatment of Indian women in Indian society, and what was the reaction of Indian women toward her? What can one assume about how she was treated in her own society?
    1. Rowlandson was treated as a slave while amongst the Indians. During the twelfth remove, Rowlandson states that when her mistress returned to catch her reading her Bible that the Bible was snatched from her and thrown. When Rowlandson complained that her load was too heavy her mistress slapped her across the face. There were other instances of Rowlandson’s mistreatment such as when the squaw through ashes in her eyes. Rowlandson was expected to be subservient in the Indian society and the Indian women were not very kind to her which led Rowlandson to view them as cruel beasts. It is safe to assume that Rowlandson was pretty well off in her society as she had a house and many comforts along with a lot of “relations” and friends.


  1. Discuss the charge that the Great Awakening preachers in general and Edwards in particular had a searing and ferocious style of preaching that was, like that of the most extravagant of modern television evangelists, designed deliberately to exploit the fears of troubled and confused people.
    1. Edwards included many fear striking statements in his sermons. The title alone Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God suggests the wrath of God people were likely to face at any moment. Edwards favored slogan “hanging over the pit of hell” gives the readers a sense of despair while reading his work. It is easily recognizable how Edwards and his contemporaries could be compared to modern day television evangelists in that his sermons were designed to deliberately exploit the fears of troubled and confused people. The more fearful the people are the more likely they are to stay in submission and do all that they are told. Edwards used statements such as “They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using His power at any moment to destroy them” (Concise Anthology of American Literature 157) to keep his congregation fearful and on the straight and narrow as many modern day evangelists use similar tactics and talk of hell to do the same.
  2. Comment on the three kinds of persons whom Edwards addresses in the sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: (a) unredeemed and wicked sinners, (b) “natural men” who are devoted to life and sensual things, and (c) redeemed persons all of whom God may choose to pity and to save.
    1. Edwards describes unredeemed and wicked sinners in much of his sermon. He compares wicked men to the “troubled sea” and states that God has a restraining hand regarding these wicked people. Edwards also states that these wicked men are the “objects of that very same anger and wrath of God that is expressed in the torments of hell” (Concise Anthology of American Literature 157).
    2. Edwards regards natural men as prudent to preserve their own lives and states that their “own wisdom is no security to them from death”. On page 160, Edwards states that “Thus it is, natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit and are already sentenced to it”.
    3. Edwards believed in predestination. That certain people were already chosen to be saved and that Christ’s salvation applied only to these select individuals. “God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen.”
  3. Edwards uses the literary device of repetition frequently throughout “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Specifically, the words “wrath” and “restrain/restraint” are used many times. Why did Edwards specifically focus on these two words? Why were these two words (or thoughts) so important to the message he was trying to get across to the congregation? Discuss each word individually, including its meaning and its purpose in his overall sermon’s purpose. Be sure to use specific references of each word in the literature to show evidence of your thoughts on each specific word.
    1. “When you want something to be memorable, you repeat it. In literature, repetition refers specifically to the recurrence of words, sounds, or phrases. The reason for using repetition, other than hammering home a particular idea or instruction, is to increase the sense of unity in a work.

The Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) relies heavily on the use of repetition in order to impress upon his audience the urgency of redemption from sin. Two of the most prominent uses of repetition within the sermon are the words “wrath” and “restrain(s)/restraint.”

Edwards uses the word “wrath” an astonishing fifty-one times. God, he warns, will not be patient with his errant flock forever. Every day his anger at humanity’s sin and indifference towards their own fate increases” (http://www.enotes.com/topics/sinners-hands-an-angry-god).