Last updated: February 22, 2019
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In “A Model of Christian Charity,” John Winthrop proposes to change the existing social and economic hierarchy. The old world social hierarchy divided the classes based on wealth and property. The highest class consisted of the king and royal family, then followed by the bishops. Next on the hierarchy were the nobles, gentlemen, and the wealthy. And at the bottom of the hierarchy of course, were the poor. Because of this extreme division, there was no middle ground between the wealthy and poor. That is, the old world hierarchy allowed the rich to hold power over the poor.

The poor would live and work on the land in exchange for protection from the wealthy. In other words, the poor had to work as servants or hired hands for the rich, and they had little or no property. Winthrop thought that if the old world social hierarchy was carried overseas, then it would divide people in America and prevent society from thriving. After all, they would be coming to a new land with an unfamiliar environment. Also, there would be unfamiliar people and diseases. In short, if everyone did not work together, then chances for survival was unlikely.

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But Winthrop knew he could not attack the social hierarchy directly. That is, he knew that if he tried to change the rules of society, people would object. Therefore, Winthrop takes a series of small steps that when viewed individually do not seem like he’s trying to end the hierarchy. But when he puts his ideas together, it becomes apparent how far he has altered and broken down the old world social and economic hierarchy. Winthrop’s first action to undermine the old world social hierarchy is to begin by affirming it. By doing this, he sets his audience at ease, and slowly moves to his point.

Winthrop begins “A Model of Christian Charity” first with agreeing with the social hierarchy that already exists. He says that each person should be happy where they are in society, because it was divine providence that has placed them. He says it is God’s will that there be social classes because God loves variety and diversity. Yet, God is watching to make sure that “the rich and mighty should not eat up the poor, nor the poor and despised rise up against their superiors and shake off their yoke” (198). Winthrop is introducing the concept of interdependence.

He says that the success of the rich depend on how they treat, or mistreat, the poor. Likewise, the poor must respectfully perform their duties to take care of the rich. In short, interdependence affirmed that the rich and poor needed each other in order to survive. This shift of ideas allows the strictly divided levels on the social hierarchy to become less rigid. It would seem Winthrop is compressing, or even squishing, the clearly divided lines on the social hierarchy. In other words, Winthrop is saying “you can keep the social classes, but do not let the differences divide and separate you. Next, Winthrop insists that in addition to the interdependence, the social classes must aid each other in times of need. According to Winthrop “there are two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: justice and mercy” (148). In fact, Winthrop claims that God wants people to show mercy to each other. He goes on to explain that mercy is “giving, lending and forgiving” (149) and the law or creed described by the “holy” gospel. Then Winthrop sets up a scenario to explain at times there may be cause for a rich man to show mercy to the poor and expect nothing in return.

Similarly, the poor must not rise up and attempt to destroy the rich. If society practices mercy and forgiveness, then people can work together — despite their position on the social hierarchy. Then, if people are coexisting, the separated levels become irrelevant and the social hierarchy ultimately collapses. In his final move, Winthrop claims that God wants his people to not only show mercy to each other, but also to express love. He establishes this idea by noting that “Scripture defines love as being the bond of perfection” (151). He asserts that love will work because love is always a perfect reward.

If you love someone, they will love you back. This will of course lead to a better economy and society. When people love each other, they are able to step beyond the divisions placed on them by society. If people are willing to step past those divisions and aid each other, then the class systems become unimportant. This mobility will bring the rich closer to the poor while at the same time allowing the poor to rise higher to the level of the rich. In addition, Winthrop explains that if people love each other, that God will “delight to dwell among … His own people” (158).

In other words, the presence of God will encourage them in being successful. Then the ideals of the Massachusetts Bay Colony will spread, along with the concept of God’s love. Even though Winthrop began his argument by affirming the old world social hierarchy, by the end of his sermon he has created a community of love. Winthrop’s steps set up an ideal, harmonious Christian community, mostly free of the divisions caused by social differences. This is remarkable because he is changing the ideals for the new world. A community of love is the beginning of a republic.

Winthrop is setting up Americans to create a democratic society by instilling in everyone the concept of the community of love. Anne Bradstreet also wanted to create a community of love. However, she takes Winthrop’s idea of a community of love a step further. In addition to wanting to compress the sharp divisions between the social and economic hierarchy to promote peace, she also wanted to dull the divisions of the gender hierarchy. That is, she wanted to prevent the old world ideas of the gender hierarchy from being established in the new community.

The old world idea held that men were the highest on the gender hierarchy. This was especially restraining because it limited a lot of what women could do. For example, women could not hold office in the government or church. Women could not vote. Additionally, although women were taught to read and write, they had to do so carefully. Often, literate women ran the risk of overstepping their boundaries or causing disapproval from society. One example of this is Anne Hutchinson, who was excommunicated because of the hysteria she caused due to her reading the Bible.

Hutchinson interpreted the scriptures herself, and began preaching out of her home. She believed she could preach the truth because God had spoken to her. However, the assembly of the court disagreed and confirmed it was rather the devil who had invaded her mind (Morgan 135). In fact, Winthrop was on the committee that banished her. Another example is Anne Hopkins, whose husband left her because she “lost her mind. ” Winthrop wrote in his journal that Mrs. Hopkins suffered from “the loss of her understanding and reason … by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing” (Johnson 140).

He believed that if Mrs. Hopkins acted like a “good Puritan wife” and spent her time doing “women’s” work instead of reading, she may not have gone mad . Situations such as these motivated Bradstreet to strive for women’s freedom in all realms of life. She wanted to do this by collapsing divisions in the gender hierarchy in the same way Winthrop had done to the social hierarchy. Her aim was to bring women up a few levels on the hierarchy while at the same time bringing men down some. Balancing the levels of the gender hierarchy would generally provide some equality between the sexes and end the gender war.

Just as Winthrop doesn’t attack the social and economic hierarchy straightforwardly, Bradstreet also is not foolish enough to directly confront the gender hierarchy. She knows that in order to achieve her goal she must become a master rhetorician. So, she takes a series of steps to achieve her goal. First, in “The Prologue,” she aims to conquer the aesthetic realm. She puts herself on the same pedestal as the male writer, arguing that, as a woman, she is capable of writing beautiful, pleasing poetry to the same extent or even better than her male counterparts.

Second, in “To Her Father With Some Verses,” she argues that she can have equal power in the social realm. She does this by claiming control in their financial affairs. This transfer of power puts her on an equal level with her father. Finally, “In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory,” she argues that women can also have influence in the political realm. She uses Queen Elizabeth as an example of a successful female figure that ruled an entire country. With Queen Elizabeth, Bradstreet is able to express the true worth of women.

She demonstrates that women can be competent, worthy rulers if they overcome the oppression cast down on them by men. Bradstreet begins her attack on the gender hierarchy with “The Prologue. ” Her first step is to demand a place in the aesthetic realm. She does this by agreeing with the existing Puritan aesthetic and affirming that male poets are more adept to writing poetry. According to Bradstreet it is the duty of men “To sing of wars, of captains and of kings / Of cities founded, commonwealths begun. ” In contrast , she says that epic topics “for my mean pen are far superior things / Let poets and historians set these forth. She continues, “My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth” (189). Although Bradstreet claims that she cannot write epic poetry, she retains the right to write about “leftover” topics that men have no interest in. In other words, Bradstreet can write about domestic topics such as family, personal beliefs or “home” life. In short, topics that might interest women. The small “leftover scrap” topics that Bradstreet picks up make her appear non-threatening to the male poet. She has made it seem she has no interest to take over “their” poetic sphere. This creates a type of poetic peace treaty between men and women.

According to this treaty “men can have their epic sphere, and women can have the domestic sphere. ” To put it another way, Bradstreet has created a community where male and female poets can coexist. But “The Prologue” is a type of epic poem, because it is a tale of a space founded. She says she doesn’t want to speak of “commonwealths begun” yet she is writing about her founding of the domestic sphere. She is creating a space that moves away from the Puritan aesthetic and allows women to write about topics of their interest. She deviously creates and claims the domestic sphere where women are allowed to be poets.

By creating a space where she (and all women) can write about any topic, she is enlarging the domestic sphere and shrinking the size of the epic sphere. She is leveling the gender hierarchy, but at the same time she’s leveling the poetic spheres, because she knows that her poems are proof on their own that women are just as capable as men at writing poetry. Furthermore, the domestic sphere is preferable to the epic sphere of the male poet because in the domestic sphere, there are no rules. Specifically, there are no Puritan rules. In the domestic sphere, poets do not have to follow the Puritan aesthetic.

Bradstreet has accomplished what male poets haven’t been able to do: free herself from any “poetic oppression. ” Bradstreet uses “The Prologue” as a passive aggressive attack on the male poet. While on the surface it may appear she is exalting men as great writers, a careful reading shows she is actually asserting the male poet is a violent beast. She explains that the male poet with their “high flown quills that soar the skies / And ever with [their] prey still catch [their] praise ” (Bradstreet 189) is comparable to birds of prey, or even monsters or predators.

She is accusing the male writer of forcing their prey to praise them. Thus, she hides her displeasure by using pleasing words. Bradstreet explains that she, unlike the condescending male poet, will not force anyone to praise her. Her poetry is deserving of praise because of its own form and content. Her message brings the male poet down a notch on the hierarchy, and her ability to write beautifully and clearly allow her to ascend a level or two. In bearing light on this fact, she closes the gender gap on writing ability. This is step one for her planned process to eliminate the gender hierarchy.

She must claim her spot as a female poet, and prove her right to stay there. After she establishes a place for women in the aesthetic sphere in “The Prologue,” Bradstreet moves onto her next idea, which is to establish women’s rights in the social realm. In her poem “To Her Father with Some Verses,” she ammends Winthrop’s idea of the forgiveness of debts. She uses her own financial situation with her father. She needs to repay him, but she tells him that “The principal might yield a greater sum / Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb” (195).

She explains how her father lent her a large sum of money, but it was “handled so ill,” that she squandered mostly all of it. She goes on to describe her hopeless situation with “My stock’s so small I know not how to pay / My bond remains in force unto this day … Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,” (Bradstreet 7-8, 13). She tells her father she has no money to repay him with. But, she is a good Puritan woman, and she will not disregard the debt she is in. So she will pay him back, but not with money. Instead, she will use the education her father allowed her to have, and write him poetry.

Bradstreet is claiming that her poems are equal to money. Therefore, she offers her poetry instead saying “Yet for part payment take this simple mite … such is my debt I may not say forgive / But as I can, I‘ll pay it while I live” (195). Bradstreet very subtly takes control of how she is going to pay her father. In short, she has to write more poetry because her poems are the monetary means of repaying her father. She is making her poetry into a necessity because it is the only way she can pay her father back. Bradstreet is setting herself up to write poetry forever.

She does this by including “Yet paying is not paid until I die” (195). She will continue to write until her father is repaid. Even if that is for as “long as she lives. ” In addition to reducing her father’s financial control, Bradstreet has taken away all the power that he held over her. Bradstreet clarifies this by writing, “When nothing’s to be had, kings lose their right” (195). To elaborate on this idea, kings are only powerful because they have subjects or property to have power over. In short, kings are powerful because of their ownership.

Therefore, when “nothing’s to be had,” kings have nothing to hold their power over. Consequently, they are no longer a king. Without power, kings are just people. The king in this case can be viewed as Bradstreet’s Puritan father. In a Puritan family, a father would hold the power in a household. Therefore, Bradstreet is viewed as her father’s subject or property. To put it another way, Bradstreet’s father has ownership over her. But she claims that she is not “to be had. ” That is, Bradstreet refuses to be property. By refusing to be subject to her father, Bradstreet is taking away all of his control and power.

She has turned the tables on the idea of the gender hierarchy with her previous sly tactics. Again, she first subtly agrees, and then manipulates the idea and completely contradicts the existing patriarchal tradition. The power she has given herself pulls her father (who is a man) down quite a bit on the gender and social hierarchy and once again gives herself another advancement. Bradstreet has made a scale and balanced her father with herself. Likewise, she has balanced herself as a woman and her father as a man thus making men and women equal in the social realm.

In “In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory,” Bradstreet claims a place in the political realm for women. She begins the queen’s epic story: No Phoenix pen, nor Spenser’s poetry, No Speed’s nor Camden’s learned history, Eliza’s works, wars, praise, can e’er compact; (19-21) Bradstreet confirms that nobody, not even the great poets, can fully capture the queen’s greatness. Queen Elizabeth’s political conquests are far too many to “e‘er compact. ” Or in other words, no poem written about Queen Elizabeth could ever serve her proper justice.

She goes so far as to list four accomplished male poets who could not give Queen Elizabeth the justice she deserves. Ye0,t Bradstreet is taking the responsibility upon herself. While no male poet can praise the queen well enough, Bradstreet, it seems, does have the ability. In fact, she’s claiming that she has more of a right and more talent to write about the queen, more talent than any male poet possesses. She is confirming her own equality with male poets in the epic sphere, while at the same time affirming the queen’s political prominence.

Next, Bradstreet continually affirms that women can hold a place in the political realm by presenting a list of successful political figures of the past for examples. She names the great female rulers and their accomplishments. She begins with “Semiramis,” who more gained “infamy than fame,” by building “her glory but on Babel’s walls”(191). She mentions “Fierce Tomris … Scythians’ queen” and “Dido, first foundress of proud Carthrage walls”(191). Bradstreet continues with “proud Cleopatra,” who was a “rich Egyptian queen” and adds “Zenobya … empress of the East” (191,192).

The list of female rulers draws attention to the idea that woman ruled in the past with significant success. Bradstreet uses her historical references to demonstrate that having a female ruler is not outlandish. She writes of the accomplishments each woman had. Likewise, she illustrates that these women did remarkable things during their reign. However, Bradstreet also mentions that “for our Queen is no parallel” (192) once again making the case that Queen Elizabeth was the greatest ruler of all time. Bradstreet’s final move to undermine the gender hierarchy is to openly attack men, forcing them to look at how woman in society are treated.

Bradstreet repeatedly uses Queen Elizabeth as a type of shield, safely staying behind her, proposing the idea that women could be very successful if men did not oppress them. She knew that everyone believed Queen Elizabeth was a great, just ruler. Society was happy under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Bradstreet writes, “Was ever people better ruled than hers? / Was ever land more happy freed from stirs? ” (191). The queen was able to quiet religious disturbances during her reign, and she promoted peace. After affirming the power women could have, she then takes a dramatic turn asking “Now say, have women worth?

Or have then none? / Or had they some, but with our Queen isn’t gone? ” (192). The answer being, of course they have worth. They surely had it when the queen was alive, but since her death, “masculines”(192) have robbed women of their worth. She is asking men to look upon themselves and what they are doing to women. Bradstreet is stating that the oppression of women needs to end. Women have been ignored for too long. She reminds men that although they “…say our sex is void of reason / Know ’tis slander now, but once was treason” (192).

To speak against women used to be an offense against the Queen. She is persuading men to think. A woman was in high power once, it will happen again. Women know they have worth, and they will not sit quietly forever. If men want to keep the peace, they will need to accept this notion. Women are capable of maintaining peace. Bradstreet illustrates this with Queen Elizabeth by praising, “But happy England which had such a queen; / Yeah happy, happy, had those days still been … If then new things their old forms shall retain, / Eliza shall rule Albion once again. (101-102, 119-120) once again affirming that times were so peaceful and “happy” during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. People could be happy again under the right ruler, and that ruler could be a woman when she is allowed to rule “once again. ” Bradstreet deliberately wrote “In Honor of That High and Mighty Queen Elizabeth With Happy Memory” as an epic poem. An epic poem has a hero, with adventures and the heroes accomplishments. Often, an epic tells of history and powerful figures. ““In Honor of That High and Mighty Queen Elizabeth With Happy Memory” is precisely that.

In doing so, she has illustrated that she has the ability to move from domestic to epic (and from the epic back to domestic) sphere with no difficulty. She uses this idea to aid her theory that men and women can share both spheres for artistic purposes. In fact, if men and women are willing to erase the sphere divisions for artistic purposes, allowing the writer to use whichever sphere fits their purpose more adequately, then why couldn’t they erase the spheres dividing social positions?

And furthermore, if men and women are willing to erase social divisions, why not move ahead and expunge the lines dividing political positions. With this passage, Bradstreet raises the question: When is a line to be drawn on equality? With this poem, Bradstreet is connecting all of the pieces to her strategy. Although Bradstreet was influenced by Winthrop by his strategy on presentation along with the community of love, her mission was to create the ultimate community of love. Both revolutionaries use steps in order to slowly manipulate ideas and undermine and alter the existing hierarchies.

Each of their accomplishments individually seem harmless and non-threatening, but both manage to transform the present views for society. Bradstreet has successfully established that women can occupy the aesthetic realm, the social realm and the political realm. By doing this she has proven that women have the ability to engage in all realms of life. Bradstreet has successfully completed her mission through her poetry. She has victoriously undermined the gender hierarchy and claimed a space for women. Most importantly, Bradstreet has managed to call attention to the gender hierarchy and demand a change.