Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 Book 1, Chapters 7-10 Analysis
These chapters mark a turning point in Of Plymouth Plantation. Although Bradford has actually taken pains to show that the Pilgrims’ trials and tribulations actually began prior to they left Europe, it’s clear that their trip and arrival posture completely brand-new difficulties– specifically, day-to-day survival in an unknown and at times hazardous environment. Not surprisingly, then, Bradford illustrates the Pilgrims’ break with their former lives as outright, stating that now a “gulf separat [ed] them from all civilized parts of the world” (43 ).
The account’s structure echoes this sentiment given that Book I ends instantly after the Pilgrims have actually settled in for their very first winter. Obviously, this break with the past belonged to what the Pilgrims wished to attain in leaving the persecution they dealt with in England.
On that subject, it is worth keeping in mind that despite Bradford’s characterization of the Native Americans as “savage barbarians” (43 ), the Pilgrims’ relationship to them is not wildly different than their relationship to their next-door neighbors back in England; in both locations, Bradford depicts the Pilgrims as an isolated neighborhood surrounded by potentially hostile individuals. In this case, nevertheless, the Pilgrims are eventually able to turn the power dynamic as they were not able to in England.
The surrounding Native American tribes are initially better equipped to life in New England than the Pilgrims are– in reality, Bradford maintains that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the first winter without food from the Native Americans.
By the end of Bradford’s account, the Pilgrims, with the aid of other English settlers in the area, have managed to subdue numerous of the most powerful local tribes. Like the Pilgrims’ increasing preoccupation with revenue, which Robinson himself warns against in Chapter 7, this conquest probably represents a shift away from the Pilgrims’ initial spiritual goals toward a worldly desire for power. This area also continues a trend present earlier in the account: Bradford’s propensity to associate the bad luck of the Pilgrims’ opponents to God’s will.
This is the flipside of the belief that the Pilgrims are a chosen individuals and that God is specifically thinking about their well-being as an outcome. However, it leads to passages that might be troubling to a contemporary reader, including the following one in which Bradford explains the Pilgrims’ very first skirmish with Native Americans: “Thus it happy God to beat their opponents, and give them deliverance; and by His special providence so to get rid of that not one of them was hit, though the arrows came close to them, on every side” (47 ).