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Themes in The General History of Virginia

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The General History of Virginia themes - John Smith comic

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  • THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-RELIANCE
  • EXAMPLE
  • THE EXCITEMENT OF EXPLORATION
  • The settlers embarked on a journey to a world where they would have no contact with home. It was essential that they be able to build their own settlement, draw on resources from the land, make friends with the Native Americans if possible, and begin a long-term investment in this new future. The people who went needed to be prepared to do all of this without much help from home.
  • For Smith, the trip is a combination of virtù, prosperity, and piety. The first, virtù, is an expectancy of the achievement of great things. Going to Jamestown was stepping into an unknown world. It was full of mystery, excitement, and danger. Second, the exploration of this new place could yield new and great riches, an opportunity which many would jump at. Finally, the new world was an opportunity to bring Christianity to new peoples and places. The excitement was palpable for the settlers.
  • THE NECESSITY OF HARD WORK
  • Those who do not work will not eat!
  • MAN VS. NATURE
  • In spite of the many hardships the settlers faced, Smith did not have a lot of patience for those who could not pull their own weight. When he was finally put in charge, he ensured that the settlers had plenty of incentive to work hard by telling them that those who did not work would not eat. Smith and other leaders of the settlement knew that in the harsh conditions, so far away from the homeland, everyone would have to work hard so that they all could survive.
  • The elements wore on the settlers, from the first starving time, where they were unable to produce a viable crop, to the bitter cold of the first winter. Then, the settlers were plagued by illness and disease, and unable to work or contribute. Made worse by all of this were periodic attacks by the Native Americans, who knew the landscape better than the settlers did. The human will to survive in such circumstances is one that Smith highlights and celebrates throughout his narrative
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