Themes of Early American Literature

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Themes of Early American Literature

Early American literature does a tremendous job of revealing the exact conditions and challenges that were faced by the explorers and later by the colonists of the New World. From early shipwrecks to the later years of small colonies barely surviving through dreadful winters, the literary works of the time period focus on some very recognizable themes. The theme of any given work – being simply the unifying subject or idea – is a very important element of any piece of writing. As one reviews some of this early literature, it becomes obvious that several themes appear repeatedly, and it is these subjects that were clearly very common among people from all over the New World. While a number of themes can be found in early American literature, the only dominant and recurring themes are exploration, hardship, and religion. It is these central ideas around which all early American writing is based. The first prominent theme that appeared in the literature of Christopher Columbus and the many great explorers that followed in his footsteps was that of exploration. With the mission to sail West across the Atlantic Ocean and report back with their findings, these explorers wrote down all of their noteworthy experiences in journals and narratives. So, it is only natural that the theme of exploration can be found in many of these literary works. For example, in Christopher Columbus’ Report of the First Voyage, he details the discovery of the Canary Islands as well as their inhabitants; a settlement of people who had never before been known to exist. Throughout the report, Columbus describes nearly everything that he sees as he explores the islands and the curious people who call them home. Exploration is the central theme in just about every popular literary piece from this period, including Verrazzano’s Voyage and The…...

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