Role of Religion in Early American Literature American Literature, especially of the early settler and colonial period is marked by a deep sense of religion and a stress upon writing about matters related to religion. The development of early American literature thus can be seen to be a reflection of the religious ideals followed by the early settlers and colonists and it became a means of promoting a moral and ethical way of life.
Early American literature is filled with an obvious expression of religion and its redeeming power as well as an acknowledgment of its strength to help human beings bear adversity and triumph in difficult situations. The power of religion, as expressed in early American literature deals more with a sense of gratefulness to God for giving courage to the new settlers and this is seen in the works of Mary Rowlandson, who, in writing of her long captivity by the natives expressed continuously her gratefulness to God for giving her courage in those difficult times.
The profound role of religion in early American literature is also understood in the context of the religious nature of the earliest settlers in America, the Puritans. The reason the Puritans had made the voyage across the Atlantic and to America was for reasons of practicing their faith and writing provided a means to lay down their expectations from their new life and the hard work needed to sustain life was enhanced by stories of fortitude and courage. The religious component of American literature can also be understood in relation to the strong influence exerted by the Puritans in the early years of settlement.
An inherently religious group, the writings of the Puritans consisted mainly of sermons, hymns and poetry and journals of their lives. These journals, being a record of their daily lives were imbued with religious ideas because of the important role played by religion in the daily lives of the people and the stress upon hard work as one of the ways to serve God. The role of religion in early American literature can also be traced to the importance placed on learning and education among the Puritans.
While the Puritans are generally perceived as hard working and God fearing people, they were also a highly educated people and their education found its expression in their writings. Their writings reflected their engrained beliefs, especially religion which was integral to their existence and hence early American literature is infused with religiosity. The role of religion in the literature of this period can also be attributed to the journals kept by the early settlers who recorded their daily life with precision.
Religion became central to their journals because Puritanism called for reflection on the spiritual and this was expressed in their writings, which became records of their religious experiences and thus filled with religious ideas. The period when America saw the influx of British settlers in its lands was also the time when the Bible was put in the hands of the common man and greater number of people had access to religious writing. The settlers carried the holy book with them, which was a source of inspiration and sustenance for them in their trying times.
The simplicity of the early American literature can be traced to the simple writing style characterized by the Bible and its religious message. The role of religion in early American literature is extremely pervasive and it forms the obvious theme for most written work composed during the period. The highly religious nature of the early settlers and their deep seated belief in God and his mercy is shown in these writings, giving it a distinctly religious tone.