Of Plymouth Plantation


William Bradford

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Of Plymouth Plantation: Metaphors 3 key examples

Definition of Metaphor
A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things by saying that one thing is the other. The comparison in a metaphor can be stated explicitly, as... read full definition
A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things by saying that one thing is the other. The comparison in a metaphor... read full definition
A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two different things by saying that one thing is the other... read full definition
Book 1, Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis—The Yoke of Bondage:

Bradford uses a wide range of devices—throughout the first book, in particular—to paint a picture of the Puritans as persecuted outsiders in their home country. While this portrayal is not necessarily unfounded, the dichotomy Bradford creates of evil oppressor and innocent oppressed nonetheless requires a rhetorical effort on his part, which is worth paying attention to. Note, for instance, the metaphor Bradford includes in this excerpt from Book 1, Chapter 1:

Those reformers who saw the evil of these things, and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth, shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage and as the Lord’s free people joined themselves together by covenant as a church.

In this passage, Bradford uses metaphor to compare the actions of those who oppose the Puritans as a "yoke of anti-Christian bondage." This produces an image of both burden and imprisonment, two states of being undoubtedly experienced by this minority religious group in England. This repression is specifically described as "anti-Christian"; by comparison, Bradford and his fellow congregation members are the "Lord's free people" once joined together in a church. In this passage, freedom is set forth in religious terms as something to be meted out by God—specifically, the god of the Puritans. 

Book 1, Chapter 4
Explanation and Analysis—Religion and Colonialism:

In the following passage from Book 1, Chapter 4, Bradford outlines the Leyden congregation's rationale for moving from Holland to New England. One reason the congregation gives for this move is evangelism: they wish to spread the news of their Lord and Savior to the corners of earth, as per the directive given to Christians in the New Testament of the Bible. Describing this intertwining of religion and colonialism, Bradford uses an appropriate metaphor:

Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.

In this passage, Bradford utilizes "stepping stones" as a metaphor, alluding to the future colonial projects completed in the name of European religions. In the eyes of the Leyden congregation, their move to New England will lay the foundation for later religious/colonial projects. Without necessarily intending to do so, Bradford clearly outlines the inextricable nature of Christian evangelism and violent settler colonialism in this passage.

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Book 1, Chapter 5
Explanation and Analysis—Milk of England:

In the following passage from Book 1, Chapter 6, Bradford uses figurative language—specifically metaphor—to outline the relationship between England and the members of the Puritan congregation at Leyden. Theirs is a parent-child relationship of sorts, though indubitably fraught:

We are well weaned from the delicate milk of our mother country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange and hard land, which by patience we have largely overcome.

Bradford uses metaphor, likening his fellow church members to children that have been "weaned" from the milk of their mother, the country of England. This, in his mind, is a quality that will serve them well as settlers in New England—they have grown used to hardship and persecution and are not dependent on the comforts of their home country. As a matter of fact, their home country has long since ceased to comfort them, becoming instead the locus of their suffering and degradation at the hands of a hostile religious majority. Maintaining the hopeful mood of the text, Bradford looks on the bright side of things: persecution in their motherland has made the Puritans hardy, capable of withstanding great adversity and coming through alive and well. If any group of people can survive the unforgiving conditions of early colonial New England, they can.

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