Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 Book 2, Chapters 1-3 Analysis
The Pilgrims’ first few years in Plymouth are particularly challenging, not only for the apparent factor that they are struggling to survive, however also since they are simultaneously hashing out their relationships with surrounding communities of both Native Americans and English settlers. The Pilgrims have so far handled to preserve cordial relationships with individuals not part of their own neighborhood and even go out of their way to assist some of them– like when they assist tend to the sick sailors on the Mayflower.
Nevertheless, there are clear limits to the Pilgrims’ willingness to identify with outsiders. It is considerable, for example, that Bradford interprets the Pilgrims’ choice to help Weston’s settlers as a sign of their own “empathy,” however Squanto’s aid to the Pilgrims themselves as a form of divine intervention: “Squanto stuck with them, and was their interpreter, and ended up being an unique instrument sent of God for their excellent, beyond their expectation”( 52 ). Simply put, where Bradford attributes the Pilgrims’ good deeds to morality, he associates Squanto’s to God acting through him.
This speaks in part to a growing European contempt at the time Of Plymouth Plantation was composed for “uncivilized” individuals; even a valuable male like Squanto is seen less as a person and more as a tool. It likewise indicates the Pilgrims’ sense of themselves as singled out for a divine mission considering that Bradford’s propensity is to interpret any aid that comes their way, like the Virginian ship, as God’s favor. In a sense, Bradford treats everybody outside Plymouth as plot devices in a story about the Pilgrims’ establishment of a truly godly community. Weston, for example, is almost a cartoonish, villainous character in Of Plymouth Plantation.
Of course, it’s hard to know what his motivations might have been in real life, but as Bradford portrays him, he is an external force that threatens to corrupt the settlement at Plymouth; he constantly sends out over inhabitants Bradford defines as “wild” (58) and eventually “depraved” (72 ), and a letter from John Pierce urges the Pilgrims not to permit themselves to be “infected” (69) by their transactions with Weston. To a specific extent, Weston for that reason represents the worldly temptations and entanglements that the Pilgrims want to prevent in their new settlement.
From the start, it’s clear that the Pilgrims can’t completely get away the issues of the outdoors world. The physical hardships of life in the new colony– starvation, exposure, illness, etc.– hammer home the level to which the Pilgrims belong to the material world. The health problems the Pilgrims fall victim to are a specifically vibrant example of this since they spread out in a manner comparable to the moral “contaminat [ion] (69) the Pilgrims are continuously on guard against. The health problems a minimum of appear to spread out in that way to the Pilgrims, who did not know that scurvy is caused by a vitamin shortage rather than contagion.
Additionally, there is some internal dissension within the settlement from the start; not all the settlers who came by on the Mayflower were members of the Pilgrim neighborhood in Leyden, and these “strangers” (49) began to make “dissatisfied and mutinous speeches” (49) throughout the voyage about their intent to take control of the new settlement. The signing of the Mayflower Compact temporarily puts a stop to this discord, but the existence of outsiders in the Pilgrims’ middle proves to be a recurring source of tension in Of Plymouth Plantation.