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Life in Plymouth Colony Essay

The book of John Demos on “A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony” explores on the concept of the family life in the context of the Plymouth Colony. In particular, it tends to describe the ways of life of the people in the Plymouth Colony specifically the aspect of family, which is the smallest unit of the society. Through this book review, one will be able to determine the true accounts of the social life and customs of the people in the Plymouth Colony. Basically, the book is dedicated into furthering the importance of the smallest and most intimates of all group environments- the family.

This concept has been usually left out by experts and historians alike wherein their interest is focused on the larger units of social actions. This includes the region, the class, the party, the ethnic as well as the religious group. Most of the time, the unit of family is left with the behavioral science which includes the anthropology, sociology and psychology. In order to examine the behavior of the Plymouth Colony in a family setting, the author has to descend on the local level which is considered as almost personal history.

As such, one has to know average people in the everyday routine of their lives, in order to begin to understand their behavior in a family setting. In this way, the author was able to successfully present a picture of the family in the Plymouth Colony rather than any single instance thereof. Different aspects of the family setting of the Plymouth Colony have been discussed in the book. The author started with providing a historical survey on the Plymouth Colony. Among the various aspects of family setting mentioned in the book are physical setting, the structure of the household and the themes of individual development.

More specifically, the physically setting deals with the elements of housing, furnishing and clothing. On the structure of household, it consists of the husbands and wives, membership, parents and children and, masters and servants. Lastly, the themes of individual development involve the infancy and childhood, coming of age as well as late years. With the examination on the different aspects of the Plymouth Colony’s family setting, the author has come to realized that the family life in Plymouth was not at all unique. This is because of the evident similarities of the colony with other American colonies.

More specifically, the similarity between the Plymouth Colony and other American colonies reside in the embrace of the term “Puritanism”. As such, it can be claimed that the family is, after all, an extremely fundamental and durable institution: it often provides a kind of common denominator, or baseline, for a whole culture whose various parts may differ substantially in other respects. Plymouth Colony has been known as the Old Colony and sometimes, the New Colony. It has been said that this colony is founded by the “Pilgrims” in 1620.

In particular, the “Pligrims” are defined as the group of religious people which consists of adults as well as family groupings. They were English separatists from New England. They were famous on their sailing away from Europe to New America during the early 17th century in order to search for a home where they could freely practice their Puritan style of religion and live according to their own laws. Orginally, the “Pilgrims’ are English Puritans who broke away from the Church of England because they felt that it had not completed the work of the Reformation. Because of this, they committed themselves to a life based on the Bible.

Most of the members of the “Pilgrims” are the poorly educated people, farmers and people without political and social standing. (“Chapter 2: The English Transplantations – People/Term”, 2007) Consequently, the arrival of the “Pilgrims” in the New World is illustrated by the following lines below: “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. ” (Demos, 1971)

During their stay in North America, the “Pilgrims” manifested their views on Puritanism, especially on the way they deal with one another. Through these dealings, it is found out that the repression on the Puritans was not as strongly directed against sexuality as against the expression of hostile and aggressive impulses. Moreover, this evident on the prevalent modes of family life as well as child-rearing. More specifically, the book shows that even from the very start, the family of the Plymouth Colony was nuclear. This family characteristic has been unchanged even from the beginning of their settlement.

Specifically, the family consists of one couple and their own children formed the core of each household — with the addition in some cases of an aged grandparent or “servant”. And during these times, the life in the households was much less segmented. However, despite this physical arrangement, the roles and responsibilities of the members of the family are almost the same as today. In this colony, there is a much tighter line of authority between the parent and the child. And the range of functions performed by the family includes material, psychological, social, and otherwise.

Above all, the system of family life revolves around the fulfillment of certain basic needs as well as universal needs. These need comprise of the food, shelter and sexual release. Furthermore, the family in the Plymouth Colony setting is likened to different things and institutions. Particularly, the family is described as a “business”, “school”, “vocational institute”, the “church”, “house of correction” and as a “welfare institution”. As a business, the family is the central agency of economic production and exchange. As a school, the parents and the masters are obliged to attend to the educational needs of the children.

As a vocational institute, there is a need to apply the knowledge and skills on the larger economic system. As a church, there is an obligation for “family worship”. Lastly, on the welfare institution, the family usually provides welfare services such as the presence of the hospital or even orphanage. Indeed, the findings on the book of John Demos create awareness on the true nature of the people from the Plymouth Colony. Moreover, it contributes to the strengthening on the American culture and history. In fact, it serves as one of the foundations of the family life of the American people.

Undoubtedly, there is only little difference between the family of the Plymouth Colony and the modern-day American family. As such, the study of the ways and customs of the family on the Plymouth Colony proves the resemblance of families between the ancient colonies and the modern societies. Works Cited Demos, John. A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971. Chapter 2: The English Transplantations – People/Term. 2 July 2007. <http://www. cvhs. com/CVHS%20Inet/academics/history/apus/ch2. html>.


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