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Writing Styles in the Puritan Time Period Essay

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 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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