Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

Puritan vs Self in Anne Bradstreet’s poems

As per our last discussion in class about Anne Bradstreet’s poetry, it intrigued me that in some of the poems  Anne sort of struggles between her Puritan tenets and her own human and individualistic wants/needs.  Anne gives us a glimpse of how she lives through her deep Puritan commitment.  I found this to be a very interesting dynamic that Anne goes back and forth with throughout her poetry.  

  In “Before the Birth of One of Her Children”, Anne at first speaks to her husband about how death happens to everyone and could end their marriage possibly soon, but to refrain from being resentful about something that God has power over and has intended.  But then she continues to write requests for her husband- to remember her “kindly”  and to still love her, to be remembered through her children and protect them from their stepmother.  Anne imagines a life for her husband after she is gone.  She associates the poem with herself, as a sort of a relic that her husband can remember her by.  So, even though Anne accepts her possible death with birth and knows that it is God’s “Providence” if it happens, she makes sure she gets a clear message to her husband to always remember her and to make sure her children are taken care of.  This makes me think about how difficult it probably was at the time to follow the Puritan way but also be true to yourself-or to act like a human being sometimes.  Anne shows us how although she tries to abide by her Puritan way of life yet at times she can’t help but revert back to her human condition and hold individualistic and selfish feelings.  Anne lets us into a deeper part of her psyche.  We would think nothing of it if we faced death to tell our spouse to always love us and not never forget us in any way.  But if we had Puritan tenets to “guide” us through life- we would probably be more hesitant to say so.  Kudos to Anne for being a bit brave and letting us know how she really feels about her possible death.  

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2 responses

  1. Anne Bradstreet had a way of leaving behind a legacy and her life through her poems. Her poems varied from inspiration, surroundings, family, etc. I found the letters to her husband very touching and how she longed for his return. This also stood out to me, because she was taking care of and had full responsibility of 8 children on her own, that she found time to write sincere letters to her husband. You can also tell it was her way of relief and to grieve. Many of her poems were addressed on the death of her father, and some of her daughters children passing away. In one of her poems, she references to her children as “birds leaving the nest and flying away”. That was a line that I could hear the sadness in her heart.

    November 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm

  2. jacquibonaventure

    It is still really fascinating to me that people used to expect such extreme emotional disconnection in such high stress and intense situations as the ones that Anne Bradstreet was placed in. It’s impressive to see that her writing could be salvaged in a time like that so that later generations could see breakthroughs in literature like hers. Though she would have moments of vulnerability, you could still see her consistency in keeping herself together and overall being strong for her husband and family. She found the most humble ways to ask for her memory to be kept sacred to her husband and her children, as well as voicing her fear and concern that her children be raised with the most love and attentiveness possible when she passed. For the time she lived in, Anne’s writing speaks volumes about her talent and character.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:54 am

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