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The poetry of Phillis Wheatley

In the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, issues of religion and religious belief from her time are reflected in different works, showing how she has adapted to certain Puritan ideas. Wheatley shows similarities to Anne Bradstreet, though she writes a century later, and she writes from the point of view of a black slave with the unusual advantage of an education. She came to represent that branch of religious belief which saw Christianity as incompatible with slavery, which would make her important to abolitionists some time later. Her Christianity shows a belief in the Puritan ideas of the elect, predestination, and salvation. Different religions have different views of salvation, of who will and will not be saved, of what it means to be saved, and of what relationship there may be among acceptance of doctrinal matters, behavior, and salvation. The idea that people need to be saved implies that there is a defective condition which is normally prevalent, and the major religions see this problem as having different roots. Some religions have strict tenets to be followed in order to achieve salvation. In the Puritan conception, following these tenets is an important means of showing devotion, but salvation is either conferred or not and does not depend on good works.

Wheatley addresses these issues directly in her poem "Thoughts on the Works of Providence." The poem is in the first person, with the poet-narrator explaining her views as she observes nature and makes links between the images she sees there and her inner religious beliefs. This use of the first-person personalizes the narrative and brings the reader into the consciousness of the poet directly. We are brought by the poet into her contemplations. We know that the experiences she relates about nature are her own, and we know that the thoughts that these encounters engender are her own. She shows in this poem first the belief in God as an unseen presence:

Which ro...

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The poetry of Phillis Wheatley. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:54, June 24, 2019, from