In any event, the wilderness was never seen as the unknown, but in fact, seen as the Garden of Eden where God’s children were put to the test. Although, the nature of American Puritans was to never see nor do evil, the real test was to conquer evil, to either tame or vanquish it. In the letters and stories from ). Hector St. John de Crevecoeur and Nathaniel Hawthorne, interests sparked among European immigrants, yet they did not fully realize the severity and depth of the their decision to come to a New World.
Nevertheless, this necessity creates a sense of self-preservation; an American looking to preserve his own life from death by protecting it from all means of harmfulness. However, self-preservation caused Americans to become dispossessed of their nature and contrived them to venture off into unchartered land, where Indians and wild animals roamed. The principle element of why self-preservation caused this reasoning was because of the puritan mentality of the wilderness.
In short, it presented an ominous presence, where omens roamed untamed and loose, which inflicted the minds of many Americans To be sure, American Puritans later perceived this evil that lurked in the wilderness as challenges from God, testing their faith and how much they were willing devote their time to worshiping God. Conversely, this was a symbol of religious faith and understanding, but it also helped American Puritans establish morals with one another and learn how to act as a community.
Reflected reasons for the wilderness becoming a challenge for many American Puritans can be seen in works by John Winthrop and Mary Rowlandson. As noted above, Americans quickly began to follow puritan beliefs because of the examples felt upon them by puritan leaders, alongside their teachings and readings which were left behind. One of the pioneer puritan leaders that established morals amongst the puritan community in America at the time was John Winthrop.
Winthrop wrote “A Modell of Christian Charity” and talked about how “American philanthropic traditions” reflected essential points on how to respect the puritan community with morals from his sermon. From this work Winthrop included the excerpt “City Upon a Hill”, which he went into further detail explaining “[t]hat every man might have need of other, and from thence they might all be knit more nearly together in the Bon of brotherly affeccion” (4). Moreover, this is a reason Winthrop further develops throughout his work because it describes how the American puritan community should act as a whole.
Winthrop, at the end, mentions how American Puritans are the example for the world to follow, and this religion is one that will bring everyone together: “for wee must Consier that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are upon us” (6). Undoubtedly, Winthrop wrote his sermon to express that American puritans are to lead by example and also, for the rich people of communities to show mercy on the poor. They were all considered God’s children, thus the puritans must band together like brothers; the rich would show mercy onto the poor, by giving them charity, and in return they would offer their obedience towards the rich.
In the end, this altered the American puritan mindset because, instead of being a secluded religion, they learned to interact with one another because that’s what God wanted: to test their religious faith between the communities. Initially, in terms of moving towards selfpreservation, author Roderick Nash mentions, in his book “Wilderness and the American Mind”, how the wilderness can be perceived as a plethora of challenges. Moreover, Winthrop writes about the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville coming to America and supports Tocqueville’s reasons why civilization hould shift to the wilderness. Furthermore, Nash writes, about Tocqueville, “he informed the frontiersmen of his desire to travel for pleasure into the primitive forest, they thought him mad” explaining Tocqueville’s reason for going into the wilderness and establishing a self-preservation for himself (23). The people perceived Tocqueville as an insane, unethical madman for wanting to venture off into the woods; he approached the wilderness as a place to increase his self-preservation.
In addition, Nash writes further about “Safety and comfort, even necessities like food and shelter, depended on overcoming the wild environment” suggesting the list of outcomes when conquering challenges the wilderness has to offer (24). Nash wrote about “a wilderness condition” in America, depicting in his writing that in order for a human being to find safety and comfort-alongside with the requirements of food and shelteran American must explore the unknown of the wilderness.
On the other hand, there are American Puritans, such as Mary Rowlandson, who journeyed into the wilderness, which was interpreted and perceived as a signal from God. Rowlandson endured the challenges of travelling the unnatural elements of the wilderness, but also went through God’s test and reestablished her faith within the Puritan community. In the work, “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson”, not only does Rowlandson deal with being captive amongst Indians and had to deal with the wilderness’s surroundings; she accepts all the challenges thrown at her.
Later, in one of the Removes, “Many times I should be ready to run against the heathen, but the Scripture would quiet me again, Shall there be evil in a City and the Lord hath not done it” speaking about losing hope in what Rowlandson believes in, but the old scripture is what keeps her going (276). It is a reminder to always look back and set the example for others. God set forth this challenge in front of Rowlandson; thus, it would not be wise for her to not overcome challenges the wilderness threw at her. Furthermore, the Lord is who set up the wilderness in front f Rowlandson to overcome and expressing what a better test than from God himself.
Not only did the Lord set Indians and the wilderness as a challenge for Rowlandson, but left it for all American Puritans as a test of their disappearing faith. The challenge of the wilderness will always be there for all American Puritans as a reminder, whether puritans can overcome and live efficiently in the wilderness. The wilderness depicted in Tocqueville exemplifies a crazy man wanting self-preservation to survive in the world, and in Rowlandson it illustrates the wilderness as an ominous presence in which God set forth as a test for puritans’ faith.
In the end, these are both great examples of how diverse America can be, considering the fact that the land is what depicts the type of American you will be. In addition, the idea of creating self-preservation by initially working for oneself was established by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur. America at the time was mixed with European immigrants, which later bred onto being Americans. Crevecoeur and his twelve works from “Letters from an American Farmer”, are great examples of why immigrants came to America. Shifting towards “Letter III.
What is an American” exploits the reasons why Americans are people who work together and must band together to conquer any ominous action that stands in their way, “We are a people of cultivation, scattered over an immense territory, communicating with each other… united by the silken bands of mild government… because they are equitable” (605). In the end, Crevecoeur later on explains that “each person works for himself” supporting a Puritan mentality by bonding together as a community, establishing a false truth in order to create a sense of self-preservation amongst communities.
Undoubtedly, Crevecoeur used Puritan mentality as a cover-up for setting the theme of an American, “we are the most perfect society now existing in the world. Here man is free as he ought to be” representing the sermon “City Upon a Hill” from Winthrop (606). Lastly, Crevecour mentions how labor is the foundation of selfinterest and how self-interest sparks self-preservation to allow oneself to stay away from danger, “labor is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest: can it want a stronger allurement” (607).
Moreover, Crevecoeur goes further in Letter III by describing the different types of Americans by associating them with the land around them, “For instance, it is natural to conceive that those who live near the sea must be very different from those who live in the woods” and which supports Crevecoeur’s statement later talking about “Men are like plants” (608). Another man associated with Crevecoeur’s idea of seeing the wilderness as an essential value of the Earth is Gladys Swan. Swan clarifies Crevecoeur’s message about men being like plants by the anaylsis of how men have captured the need for capitalism when coming to America.
This need has shifted American Puritans focus on capitalism and has lost hope in valuing the land of Earth. Swan later expressing her reasoning’s through an article “The Tonic of the Wilderness” supporting that people living in the wilderness adapt to a slower pace of life. As supported through the text, “a perspective we are enjoined to recover the sense of value of the earth that sustains us and to practice an ecology that has become crucial: For it is only at the scale of our direct, sensory interactions with the land around us that we can appropriately notice and respond to the immediate needs of the living world” (Swan 326).
Crevecour and Swan did have similar ideas in seeing how the wilderness would benefit an American Puritan. Thus, not only has the wilderness affected American Puritans by creating a slower pace of life, which mainly focuses on the values of life such as survival, instinct, and nature. But the wilderness created self-preservation for American Puritans by moving their mentalities towards capitalism and concentrated more on promoting life as a whole.
American Puritans then shifted in working for oneself and promote the monetary value capitalism acknowledged. In the end, God did present the wilderness as a challenge for American Puritans and by conquering the battles of survival and encounters of Native Americans—as mentioned in Crevecoeur and Swan-American Puritans benefited from moving inwards to the wilderness. What American Puritans did not realize was the harsh understanding of the wilderness; it is a place of unknown life, where evil lurks in every concern to test your religious faith to God.