Puritanism and Romanticism differ in style, religious references, and plot content. Puritanism began to flourish with strict God-fearing Calvinists who had fled to America to escape religious persecution in Europe. With writers such as William Bradford and Edward Taylor, Puritan literature focuses on God's role in the lives of the people and adopts a simple religious style of writing. Romanticism was introduced to Americans in the nineteenth century, delivering a fresh literary and artistic style. This new literature pays more attention to the elements of tone, mood, and atmosphere, while also applying religion in the form of transcendentalism. These two types of literature are similar in the respect that they both encourage living simply.
Puritan writers were concerned more with the message the literature portrayed than with form and dramatic elements. "Poetry was used to educated its reader, and was written using simple rhythm and common images" (Heimert 34). Puritan literature was plain in style. Much attention focused on God's will in the new world, man's relation to God, the nature of faith, and the history of New England. We can see these elements in the writings of William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth colony. "Of Plymouth Plantation" is considered to be New England's first literary achievement. It "is an historical account of the journey to the new world, and the hardships encountered upon arrival" (Fritscher 81). This poem was written to "preserve both the record and the fact of Plymouth's separate identity" (Heimert 51). Bradford's objective was to preach God's purpose in the founding of the Plymouth colony.
"Of Plymouth Plantation" has two major themes: how Plymouth had failed the original goal of establishing a selfless community, and how Cromwell's victories in England had finished the reformation. Bradford compares his people's history to the history of the Israelites, quoting numerous Bible passages such as "They fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven" (Daniel 2:19). Bradford intended this document to be an inspiration to the younger generations to remind them of the hardships the original settlers endured, and how God had given them strength, playing an important role in their survival. He admitted that he wrote "in a plain style, with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things" (Fritsher 81). Bradford wrote not for dramatic affect, but rather to provide the reader with an accurate account of the troubles experienced by the pilgrims, and the role of God through their journey.
With Romanticism came a new style of beliefs known as Transcendentalism. This is similar to Puritan beliefs in that it focuses on living simply. Romanticism deals with issues concerning the conflict between the spirit and the body, nature as being good or evil, experience as mystical, the nature of reality, and the equality of men. Romanticism supported abolition and believed in the "manifest destiny" of the...