Writing Styles in the Puritan Time Period


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In American Literature, the period of the Puritans sticks out as a time
with many great authors. Two, William Bradford and Reverend Jonathan
Edwards are still studied today. Bradford was an author who wrote about
the historical section of Puritan life, while Edwards was a great speaker
who wrote sermons to give in front of his congregation. Although living
in the same time period Reverend Jonathan Edwards and William Bradford
used very different styles of writing.

In writing, praise and everyday living the Puritans favored the ordinary
and simple. William Bradford wrote in what is considered the 'plain
style.' This form of writing was used by many Puritan authors and was
thought to be direct and to the point. The plain style consisted of
simple sentences and everyday used language. It never had figures of
speech and especially not any imagery. A good example of this style is
found in the passage from Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, "They began
now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses
against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had
all things in good plenty." William took this otherwise exciting story of
the Puritans first winter and wrapped it all into one monotonous
sentence. Bradford's word choice epitomized the 'plain style' and that
was all the Puritan society would read or hear until Jonathan Edwards.


The Reverend Jonathan Edwards chose a style expressing his concerns much
more creatively than his fellow Puritan authors. Jonathan's style was
almost the complete opposite than the 'plain style.' He used many figures
of speech and

metaphors. An example of one of these fiery metaphors is from his speech,
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God , "The God that holds you over the
pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over
the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked." Reverend Edwards was
comparing God and man to someone holding a spider over a fire. Another
excellent illustration of this vivid description is from the same speech,
"O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: It is a great furnace
of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you
are held over in the hand of that God." This shows that Reverend Edwards
also used these figures of speech to strike fear in his audience. He used
this fear factor to make the "natural men" of his audience, truly
understand the horror of their sins. This style of writing differed so

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much from typical Puritan style that it often got Jonathan into trouble
with his parish.

Although living in near the same time period, William Bradford and
Jonathan Edwards' style of writing were very contrary to each other.
Bradford a typical Puritan author followed suit and used the 'plain
style' of writing while on the other hand Edwards went to the other
extreme with incorporating fear and blame in his speeches. Jonathan
Edwards was more controversial and disputed and William Bradford was
plain, simple and to the point. Even though both forms of writing varied
from one another, both styles were successful in getting the author's
point across.


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