A Comparison and Contrast Between Native American and Puritan Culture
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Each group of people in the world has their own distinct culture, or way of life. Some societies may incorporate their culture into their literature; the Native Americans, for example, are widely known for doing so. On the other hand, certain sets of people may base their culture upon a great piece of writing; Puritans, a group of people who separated from the Church of England and fled to the Americas for religious reform, are famous for basing their way of life upon the Bible. Both Native Americans and Puritans have similar elements of culture, such as religion and morals. Though they may share certain ideals, they are quite different in their approach.
It has been stated by Carl Jung that everyone, living or deceased, has been connected by a force called the collective unconscious; this means that all of humanity shares similar thought and perspective. This can be said for the Native Americans and Puritans, since both seem to include mutual beliefs in their lifestyle. First of all, each of them believes in one supreme creator. In Byrds survey, The Native American Religion, a Native American named Bearskin explains his belief in one sole supreme God, and that this master God created the world with his own hands many years ago. The Puritans Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible, explains a similar concept in which God made the Earth. Both groups also portray God as a single, distinct ruler who has placed us on this earth to please him. Secondly, in both cultures mankind is born from earth and nature. In Genesis, man is molded from the soil in an image of God.
Similarly, in many of the Native American folklore, such as the Navajos tale, man is pulled up from natural elements, such as corn and wind. Thirdly, there is the same perception of good and evil, which lead to either misfortune or prosperity in the afterlife. In both societies, the distinction between good and evil is set. For example, following the word of God was good, as opposed to murder being horrible and inexcusable. They believed that what they did in their secular lives would affect them later in the afterlife. Both believed that doing good in this world would allow passage to a greater place in Gods safe haven, where no wrong can ever be done.
In addition, both communities incorporated a tree of deeper power into their cultures. Puritans believe in a Tree of Knowledge described in the Bible, while the story The Earth on Turtles Back describes a great tree in the heavens that proved to be of great importance for all in the sky. Both stories give great importance to these massive trees, which prove to be valuable elements of their cultures. Whether or not the collective unconscious is indeed true, there is no doubt that Native Americans and Puritans did share similar building blocks of culture, specifically religion.
Though they may have had a lot in common, there were definitely many differences amongst the two. Much of the diversity is displayed through their views on nature and animals. The Puritan Ethic taught the people of New England to work very hard to earn passage into heaven, so the Puritans never had time to enjoy the beauty of life. In fact, vanity was considered to be a sin. Instead, most their time and focus was spent upon glorifying God by working hard to please him. On the other hand, the Native Americans were raised to respect nature and to appreciate their balance within it. They spent much of their time among nature, learning how to be one with it. Not only did their ideas of nature clash, but so did their view on where God stood in the world. The Puritans thought that God was in Heaven, and that they must go up to Heaven to meet God in the afterlife.
The Native Americans had a completely different idea; they believed that God was everywhere in every leaf, every rock, and every animal; it was for that reason they respected nature so much. This outlook truly demonstrates how secular the Native Americans were as opposed to the Puritans. In addition, their outlook on animals differed immensely. Native Americans would value animals and kill only when necessary, even praying for the animal and its family when doing so. In contrast, Puritans saw animals only as valuable recourses, instead of part of the circle of life. Most of the variation between the two groups was displayed through their opinions upon nature, yet it is these small differences, that make the two communities so clearly diverse and unique.
In conclusion, literature often reflects the ideals and values of a culture. The Native Americans and the Puritans had a different set of ideals, but, when it came to certain aspects, they shared common views. This cross-cultural connection can be explained by the collective unconscious; which is the universal human ability to hold the collective memories, experiences, and wisdom of humanity.