Caleb's Crossing Analysis

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A culture’s understanding of liberty is often reflected in its rearing of youth. Geraldine Brooks’ novel Caleb’s Crossing depicts two contrasting cultures, the Wampanoag Indians, and the English Puritans, cohabiting Martha’s Vineyard. Through the eyes of puritan narrator Bethia Mayfield, Brooks expresses each culture’s different views on raising children. While the Wampanoag are more liberal in their practices, allowing children to be independent individuals free of the burdens of adulthood, the Puritans take a stricter approach by controlling children through suppression of “natural liberty”, or the freedom to do both good and evil, and an instilled adherence to “civil liberty”, or the freedom to do only that which is good and honest. The…show more content…
From a young age, children are expected to perform tasks similar to those of adults including cooking, cleaning, farming, and raising younger siblings as evidenced by Bethia’s descriptions of her laborious daily life. From the Puritans’ view, children are endowed with the civil liberty to make the morally “good” choice of being dutiful and obedient to both God and their elders. Furthermore, in contrast to their Wampanoag counterparts, Puritan children are not encouraged to develop their understanding of spirituality independently, but to conform to Christianity as the only morally correct faith. They are expected to attend Church and to adhere to customs such as an austere manner of dress, and a general sexual repression, as dictated by their rigid faith. For example, Bethia struggles to suppress the guilt that she feels towards her friendship with Caleb, a Native American boy, because she knows that it would be condemned by her society. Her diary entries throughout the novel demonstrate how the lack of assuefaction to free will or natural liberty leads Puritan children to live life in constant fear of sin and damnation. Only through the righteous choices presented to them by civil liberty can they avoid these

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