The General History of Virginia was written as a narrative, from the earliest days, during the Virginia company’s journey from England to the New World (Jamestown) written by John Smith. Smith was a poet, explorer, and map maker as well as the president of the Virginia company in 1614. Of Plymouth Plantation is a journal documenting the travels endured by the pilgrims from the Dutch Republic to the New World and their early days upon landing at Plymouth Harbor as witnessed by author William Bradford.
The content within these two pieces of literature both involve leaving England in hopes of a better future found in the New World. However the reasons for leaving were not the same among the passengers, nor the camaraderie between each other. After reaching North America both stories depict their struggles with starvation and sickness, but how they face these challenges is where they begin to veer from one another.
The crew joining John Smith consisted of only opportunistic men who had the goal of reaching their destination to plant tobacco as a cash crop.
Only men that were so focused on making money and being able to start a new life with wealth. So no families were involved, mostly men who were already part of the crew traveled with Captain Smith. These men realise on their journey this would be more difficult than they could have possibly imagined. Most of the passengers from both stories would perish before ever making land from starvation or illness likely caused by malnutrition.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean it was documented in the General History of Virginia the amount of food available for those in the hold, “half a pint of wheat and as much barley boiled in water for a man a day.” (1). A similarity between the two writings is the encounter with Native Americans. How the settlers between the two writings interacted with Indians did differ. Initially attacked on arrival, the three ships part of the Smith expedition were greeted by Natives days later after they moved into the James River and stopped at Kecoughtan, where the Indians welcomed them. Jamestown received help from Pocahontas in the form of much needed supplies that were needed to survive the brutal Northeast winter. Because of her generosity, Pocahontas would basically be the only indian captain Smith would acknowledge. Other Native Americans were hesitant to help the foren men and would only do so because Pocahontas would ask her people to help Jamestown. Unfortunately these men had focused too much on the growth of tobacco and not enough on the fundamentals of their survival like food and shelter. At one point Captain Smith held the concept of “No work, no food” this is what caused a lot of the people to starve. When the Native Americans had helped them they had “nourished such ill conceits.”(1). This shows how the people who were helped by the natives, by bringing them some supplies like food, had made them greedy for more of their support. It only shows that they only wish to survive in some greed. This greed is what made them suffer even more later on in the story. If they had only looked out for each other and worked together to get settled in they would have probably suffered less. If not for John Smith the loss of life could have been more substantial due to exposure to elements. Smith Wrote,” Some to build houses, others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in time he provided most of them lodging, neglecting anything for himself.” (John Smith) Captain Smith had to redirect the men so that they may work together to assure that they could survive their new environment.
From William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation The pilgrims, and their families, paid a crew to navigate their route to the New World. The journey across the ocean would be a struggle just like for the other story including the significant loss of life. The camaraderie between the families would be poor while aboard the ship but once their arrival to Plymouth they began working together and with the Native Americans. Their relationship with the natives would be less hostile and much stronger and more rewarding. Another obvious difference between the stories is the relationship or lack thereof with the Native Americans. The people of plymouth were able to survive more easily because they were able to work better amongst themselves and with the Natives. The family mentality of hopes of a future together proved to be the better survival strategy than greed and self focus. The pilgrims purpose for their journey was essentially freedom of religion. They wanted a place to raise their children with free religious views. These people were not greedy or selfish among each other like those at Jamestown. Ultimately their relationship with the Native Americans they encountered is what would allow them to prosper.
In conclusion both stories shared a number or challenges in reaching their destination. Ultimately how these challenges were faced determined the success of the story. I believe that due to the lack of teamwork within the Jamestown settling there was a higher loss of life compared to those settling at Plymouth. The pilgrims of Plymouth faced their fair share of challenges like Jamestown, but their willingness to work together and with the Indians is why I believe they survived as they did.