The idea of improvement is inherent in all people, and has been thoroughly discussed and realized in various ways within different cultures. In American literature the ideal of self improvement is exemplified in the writings of John Smith, Anne Bradstreet, William Bradford, and Thomas Jefferson. The works presented “A Description of New England” by John Smith, “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet, and “The Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson” will show a concentration on the idea of self-improvement.
Although each of these writers has many differences an underlying commonality is shared between them, the ideal of self improvement. John smith was part of the ruling council in Jamestown which was the local government. He was put in such a position of power due to his knowledge and experiences. His ideal of self improvement ultimately proves to be the root of persona. In “A Description of New England” Smith says, “Let this move you to embrace employment, for those whose educations, spirits and judgments want but your purses; not only to prevent such accustomed dangers, but also to gain more thereby than you have. (Baym) This very statement exemplifies Smiths’ ideal of self improvement not only for himself but for others. As with William Bradford he too was in a position of power as a governor. Bradford is said to “epitomize the spirit of determination and self-sacrifice”. (Baym) Clearly self improvement is an ideal of William Bradford and John Smith. Bradford shows the power of determination and will of self improvement in his writing “Of Plymouth Plantation”. Anne Bradstreet was highly intelligent and largely self-educated. Coming from a family of successful men, Anne proves self improvement is an ideal of hers.
In a different way Anne Bradstreet expresses her ideal for self improvement, through poetry. She has a consistent appeal for the love of her husband in “To My Dear and Loving Husband. ” (Baym) She praises him and asks the heavens to reward him for his love. To be rewarded for an action is the equivalent of having a form of improvement. Bradstreet wishes for her husband to be rewarded, who in turn would positively improve their marriage and family in some form or fashion, thus providing self improvement. Truly exemplifying the desire for self improvement is Thomas Jefferson.
He served his country as Minister to France (1784-1789), Secretary of State (1789-1793), Vice President (1791-1801) and third President (1801-1809). He has an emphasis on the importance of education, agrarianism and land ownership as they brought responsibility and true judgment. The Declaration of Independence adopted July 4, 1776, not only announced the birth of a new nation, but also set forth a philosophy of human freedom which served as an important force in the western world. It is a statement of American principles.
It instilled among the common people a sense of their own importance and inspired struggle for personal freedom, self government and a dignified place in society. The ideal of self improvement is clearly apparent in these four writings from Jefferson, Bradstreet, Smith, and Bradford. The variations in which each writer expresses the realization of self improvement proves that ultimately no matter how far apart they appear to be from each other, they do share a common ideal.
Works Cited Baym, Nina. Norton Anthology Of American Lit Shorter Edition. Norton, 2008.