Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From The General History of Virginia Historical Narrative by John Smith Review

The historical narrative 'The General History of Virginia' was written by one of the first English' settlers in North America, John Smith. The book represents the earliest work of American literature. The author was hired by the English Virginia Company, a group of investors hoping for huge profit from their New World venture.

John Smith described in this book his adventures in the Jamestown colony in 1607 and the continuing years. This narration evoked varies reactions among historians because it wasn't clear whether the true events were described or whether the author exaggerated his role in the life of the colony.

It is remarkable that John Smith used the narration in the voice of the third person. This literary method (using the voice of the third person) gives readers the feeling that it is told by an objective observer.  Smith used the narrator to portray himself and his role in the events.

The narration is quite difficult to read; the sentences in the story are long and complicated. The historical meaning of this work is essential because it was written by a contemporary of those events. The one sentence from the narration below represents some features of the literary style which were mentioned in this review.  It also includes some historical details such as arrows and so on. Here is the sentence:

"Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river's head twenty miles in the desert, had his two men [Robinson and Emry] slain (as is supposed) sleeping by the canoe, while himself by fowling sought them victual, who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself with the aid of the savage his guide, whom he bound to his arms with his garters and used him as a buckler, yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner... "

He escaped from the Powhatans prison and according to his version described in a final edition of his memoirs, he was rescued by the help of Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. It may have been an attempt to cash in on Pocahontas's later fame. She visited England in 1616 and became a celebrity. At the time of Smith's imprisonment, she was only ten years old. That part of the story raises doubts.

Despite the controversies which were mentioned above, the story gives the objective view of the epoch. It corresponds with the title ‘The General History of Virginia'.

Here is the link to the text of the story: