American literature | English homework help

Short Essay Questions


1. Using specific examples, explain how the Bay Psalms Books attempted to educate—morally and religiously—the early settlers. What was the purpose of this book?

2. What is the role of animals in the two creation stories (The Navajo creation story and the Iroquois creation story) we have read?

3. Compare and contrast Columbus’ letter of discovery to Luis de Santangel and his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella. 

4. Offer a brief biography of TWO of the following: Jonathan Edwards, Christopher Columbus, Anne Bradstreet. (Note: this question can be revised to include any of the authors on the syllabus so far.

5. The writings of Captain John Smith and Christopher Columbus serve as a type of propaganda. Both discuss the New World as an Eden-like paradise—a land of plenty. Supply specific examples of how each man uses his writing to spur future colonization efforts.

6. Briefly summarize/analyze ONE of the Native American creation stories from our syllabus.

7. Briefly summarize any TWO Anne Bradstreet poems.  

8. Compare the two Native American creation stories printed in our text. What similarities do they share? In what ways do they seem to promote the same values?

9. Discus Cotton Mather’s role as a Puritan leader and as a participant in the witch trials at Salem.

10. Analyze Sewall’s “The Selling of Joseph.”  What do you think are the purpose and tone of these piece of literary work?  

11. What does Sewall’s diary reveal about his character?  What kinds of things seem to be important to him?

12. Two conflicting views of Jonathan Edwards exist: (a) that he has a searing and ferocious preaching style designed to exploit the fears of troubled and confused people (b) that he used “terror” not just to stir up emotionalism but to awaken sinners and proclaim the omnipotence of God. Which of these views do you think is more accurate and why?

13. Bartolome de las Casas and Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca are more sympathetic to the plight of Native Americans than most other early settlers. Use specific examples from each man’s work to show how his attitude reveals such sympathy and understanding.

14. Using specific references to three of her poems, comment on the common themes in Anne Bradstreet’s poetry.

15. The United States has been criticized in recent years for assuming an air of moral superiority and for trying to impose its opinion on the rest of the world. Can you find the seeds of these American attitudes in the literature of the first two centuries? Explain your answer by referring to specific works you have read.

16. Based on the readings from our textbook (NOT what you’ve studied before), what strike you as the most memorable aspects of the adventures/experiences of men like Columbus, de las Casas, Cabeza de Vaca, and/or Smith? Discuss TWO of these men in your answer.

17. Successful captivity narratives usually have the following elements: vivid and gory descriptions of violence, descriptions of unfamiliar landscapes, comparison of the captive’s adventures with those of the individual Christian confronting and overcoming adversity, and the threat (seldom fulfilled) of sexual violence. Which of these elements does Mary Rowlandson’s narrative contain?

18. Rowlandson’s narrative rouses interest because she is a woman. Discuss her treatment as a woman. What was expected of her in Native American society? How does she describe the Native American women around her?

19. Discuss Samuel Sewall’s condemnation of slavery in “The Selling of Joseph.”  How does he seem to feel about African Americans?  How convincing is his argument against slavery?  

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