Smith, Bradford and Bradstreet formed part of the firstAmerican settlements, this was, therefore, what strongly influenced, and moldedtheir personalities, and self-representation in their works.John Smith, in the tradition of the Elizabethanvoyagers, illustrated the early days of the English colonization of America. Itcan be seen his work General History ofVirgina as a story told by an adventurer who wanted to narrate hisexperiences in the New World.
Smith always referred to himself in the thirdperson as a strategy to give veracity to his accounts. Mixing fact and fiction,he displayed himself as a hero, extolling his great deeds, achievements andvictories. For instance, in his book he is the only survivor of the bow-mensavages using his guide as his shield, and also, once he is captured, how heproudly demands the presence of the King of Pamunkey to negotiate his freedomexchanging it for a compass.
Bradford like Smith, recounted his experience in theNew World. Bradford formed part of the Puritan community which crossed theAtlantic in search of freedom to practice his religion. Unlike Smith, Bradfordis the “I” or first person narrator in his work Of Plymouth Plantation. He tells his history as a journey to thepromise land, assuming the role of a Messiah, since those who do not followhim, do not follow God, and then God will punish them. For instance, the authorexplain in the book how a young man which he describes as a profane, andhaughty person, eventually die in a desperate manner under the just hand ofGod.Bradstreet also wrote autobiographical pieces inwhich she conveyed personal experience and feelings. She illustrated herself inThe Author to Her Book a woman writerfighting for its own place in a patriarchal society. To do so, she used aneutral and detached approach in her poem being genuinely modest but disclosinga rebellious spirit.
In her poems, she used conventional resources in which shehad to define herself as a humble woman, good wife, devout mother, and piousbeliever, but it is easy to notice the internal tensions between her domesticconcern, and her duty to maintain her faith.In short, it can be established a similitude betweenBradford and Bradstreet autobiographies because of the influence of religion intheir lives. Conversely, Smith portrayed himself as a conqueror, undertakingthe concept of manifest destiny.Edwards, Franklin and Wheatly used the binaryopposition of good and evil to give their particular approach to the mainissues of the 18th century. Edwards, labelled as the last great puritan,wanted in his sermons to convince the parishioners not to forget religion sincethey were giving more importance to trifle things, and living as sinners. To doso, he used the binary opposition between good and evil to illustrate what it wasgoing to happen if they continued leading a life as sinners.
He compares thesinner with a spider or loathsome insect that depend on the hand of God, whichhold the thread on which he is hanging. The imagery of the fire represents theevil, the hell, and it is displayed in different ways such as brimstone,furnace of wrath, etc. In conclusion, the fire represents the ending for asinner. Unlike Edwards, Franklin advocated for thereason, and a form of free-thinking Deism, for instance he spoke aboutmistakes, which he metaphorically called “erratas”, instead of sins.
He in a plain-style wrote his Autobiography; a self-help book in which heexplained how to achieve moral perfection, and be socially successful throughthe practice of virtues, basing on his own experience. According to Franklin,the good behaviour is linked to thirteen secular virtues (temperance, silence,etc.) that has to be attained. Moreover,he made a plan in which every mistake in attaining these virtues was a blackspot in a daily calendar. He compared his removing the black spots, which arehis failures in being virtuous, to a gardener’s pulling weeds.
On the other hand, in the poems by Wheatley wecan find how she subverted what is good and evil. Apparently, she displayedgratitude to those who kidnapped her and turned her into a Christian, and alsoshe expressed admiration to those who claimed for the American independence,but in a closer examination to her works, it can be seen how she used irony tobe very critical with that hypocrisy. Another example of this subversion isthat she depicted sin much worse than enslavement, but even so she showed herdisapproval to the slavers mindset that black people could not be turned into asaved souls after death.To sum up, the three authors illustrate the tensions about religious,political and spiritual freedom of their time by using the contrast betweengood and evil.