Of Plymouth Plantation is written in a spare, unadorned voice known as “the plain style.” As a result, there are few symbols in the text: instead, William Bradford opts for a direct, more “honest” form of writing. One exception, however, is the land patent (i.e., legal claim to land) that the English Crown grants to the Plymouth branch of the Virginia Company. After years of hard work, the patent is taken out in the name of one man, John Pierce—but John Pierce eventually decides not to go to America at all, meaning that the land patent is effectively useless for the Pilgrims. Thus, Bradford writes, the patent symbolizes the futility of human existence, and all the “uncertain things of this world.”
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Land Patent appears in Of Plymouth Plantation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 5
...Company succeeds in obtaining a contract for the Leyden congregants. The Company even obtains a land patent (i.e., legal right to land) for the reformers. However, the patent isn’t taken out in... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
...due to leaks. Bradford also receives a letter from the Virginia Company, explaining that the land patent for land has reverted from a single congregant, John Pierce, to the company itself. Pierce... (full context)