After reading three short selections on Captain John Smith (General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, A Description of New England, and New England’s Trials) in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th Ed., a second source was helpful to learn more about this historical figure. Philip L. Barbour, in The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith, focuses on the major roles Captain Smith filled during his lifetime: adventurer, colonist, and promoter. Because the book was divided into three main categories, it was helpful to use this secondary source in order to gain a greater understanding of John Smith’s role in the New World.
The Norton Anthology introduces each historical figure with a brief summary. Both sources explain how Smith was a soldier fighting in various battles, but Barbour goes on to explain, in the section entitled ‘Adventurer,’ how he searched for adventure and ‘was ever restless’ until he was taking part in the fight against the Turks (20). In General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles we are thrown immediately into the life of Smith and The Virginia Company in the New World. The background information that Barbour provides shows how Smith became the great adventurer that he was. It was interesting to read about the trials Smith went through as a youngster looking to join the army. He was cheated by four men, was robbed of everything he owned when he started out, and was taken in and helped along the way by strangers until he earned enough money to continue his journey (Barbour 18). Smith learned of the Mediterranean trade under La Roche (Barbour 22), and worked under Lieutenant Colonel Khissl, Chief of Artillery at Graz, as a soldier in the Holy...
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...les. His detail about the role of Pocahontas really expanded on the brief mention of her in the assigned reading. In Smith’s New England’s Trials and his Description of New England, we learn that Smith would do it all over again and encourages others to do the same. In Barbour’s ‘Promoter’ section, we see how Smith really felt about the colony and his hopes and dreams for it, expanding on his brief recruitment essay in the assigned readings. Although the selections in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th Ed., are valuable literary texts because of the historical figure who wrote them, using The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith by Philip L. Barbour as a secondary source helped to provide background information and interpretation of the assigned readings.
Barbour, Philip L. The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith. Boston: Houghton, 1964.
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