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Cultural Clashes in the New World

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Cultural Clashes in the New World

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The first European discoveries of the Americas, also known as the New World, originated immensely from Spanish exploration. In the 16th century, following Christopher Columbus's expeditions in the 15th century, a Spanish nobleman by the name of Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, undertook a journey in honor of the Spanish Crown. In his epistolary chronicle, Castaways, to Her Majesty, Cabeza de Vaca unexpectedly joins forces with the indigenous people of this land in an attempt to survive the twisted series of unfortunate events. Following the era of Spanish exploration, British settlement began taking place in the early 17th century. Of the first settlers of the New World, the Puritans seem to be the most prominent. Due to the religious constrictions in Europe, the Puritans left the Church of England and settled in the Americas. Among the most significant include the Mayflower pilgrims, who settled in the Plymouth Colony, governed by William Bradford. Bradford translated the experiences of adaptation to new surroundings and complexities amongst the natives into a providential narrative, Of Plymouth Plantation, which is an important historic document. Though both William Bradford and Nunez Cabeza De Vaca share comparability in their historical contexts, spiritual values, and foreign circumstances, the scope in which they experience cultural clashes vary between the two on a broad spectrum. Bradford, acquiring a determined, religious mindset, perceives the natives merely as vehicles sent from God in order to fulfill a certain duty. Diverging from Bradford's perceptions, Cabeza de Vaca experiences a cultural syncretism, spiritually and mentally indulging with the natives - entirely integrating his human behavior into an intricate blend of the two lifestyles.

Many of the influences in William Bradford's work stems from the providential history of his time; he constantly searches for signs of God's work. In discovering the factors that influence his work, the true motive behind his behaviors and interactions can surface, giving us a deeper understanding of the conflicting communities between the pilgrims and the natives. Bradford's prior spiritual commitment to God restricts his opportunities in cultural overlapping. For example, Bradford insists that Squanto, "was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation" (Bradford, 141). This type of language depicts a superficial relationship between the Puritans and the natives. Though the settlers are very grateful for Squanto, because they think he is God's help, they lack the ability to communicate with him on an equal, humane basis. Bradford implicitly revokes any association with the natives, constantly thinking of himself as superior, and them as just tools in the history of God's plan. The type of relationship the Puritans assented to with the native people manifests itself and reciprocates back into the faces' of the pilgrims. The consequences of these actions lead to the Pequot War. Bradford, being ignorant, again resorts to God's plan in order to justify his actions, stating the massacre was a sweet sacrifice for God's work (Bradford, 153); however, the sole reason for the war was a lack of understanding resulting in incidents and rising tension.

Bradford's literary depictions had many parallels and differences with Cabeza de Vaca in the way the cultural interactions were described and thematized. As many great writers know, the success in a captivating, yet informing narrative lies in knowing your audience. Bradford's narrative consisted of documenting events in a journal, which then became Of Plymouth Plantation, for future generations of settlers to learn the Pilgrims rights and wrongs in their first years of settlement. This provides support to fact that Bradford was very honest and straightforward about his encounters, which also accounts for his behavior to the natives. He describes the New World as wild forests and the people as wild beasts, initially being very afraid. Therefore, when he is exposed to the natives his defensive approach is justifiable, because he has nothing to prove of this land or the people living in it, his only intentions is to be completely honest to the generations to come. Contrary to Bradford's intentions in the New World, Cabeza de Vaca states many times that he is making this journey on, "Your Majesty's command" (Cabeza de Vaca, 3), which sets up the foundation for much of the differences in experience for these two historical texts. Disregarding the audience, the two men arrived to the New World for very distinct purposes. The purposes for their expedition translate fluently to the treatment of the indigenous people. Bradford and the Puritans were trying to colonize a new land of beginnings. Therefore, it is transparent why cultural blend was not one of their main priorities in adjusting to this new land. Instead, Bradford simply made peace with the natives in the terms of not stealing, not hurting one another, and specific consequences set in place for breaking the terms (Bradford, 141). Clearly, the Puritans had zero to little interests in connecting with the natives, as



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