English

Nonconformists in Literature

In other words, the proper function of society is to encourage its members to conform to a set of ideas that are broadly considered ‘acceptable’ behavior. However, the attempt to get two people to agree on what might be considered ‘acceptable’ is always going to be a problem and this problem only becomes more complicated with the addition of more people. Finally, there will always be some in the group who are not able to see things according to the ‘accepted’ view and thus become labeled ‘nonconformist’. In examining the protagonists in three colonial stories such as New English Canaan by Thomas Morton, The Speech of Polly Baker by Benjamin Franklin, and Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving, this concept of the nonconformist is revealed.In the short piece New English Canaan, Thomas Morton describes a Mayday celebration that was held in a place being renamed Merry-Mount during the early colonization of Plymouth Plantation. Because they didn’t have women to help them celebrate, the men erected their maypole and placed a declaration upon it indicating its purpose – not only to help them celebrate the spring and their successes thus far, but also to help provide a sea-mark so that ships bringing them the women and other colonists they hoped would help make their lives even more pleasant in this new land would have little difficulty in finding them. The celebration included singing, dancing, and drinking beer, which seems relatively mild by today’s standards, but ended up drawing a crowd of individuals who could not understand the purpose.The first group that did not understand what exactly was going on was the ‘Salvages’ of the land who came thither of purpose to see the manner of our Revels (Morton, 1637).

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