Mayflower - the Pilgrims' Adventure (1979)
In this version of the Pilgrim saga, Elder Brewster is the central figure; in fact, William Bradford is almost totally absent from the story. The persecution in England is visually evident, but the contention between Brewster and Captain Jones is more cerebral than physical as they wage a psychological battle to control their own domains; e.g., Brewster asks Jones to curb the sailors' swearing, a request Jones ignores until the Pilgrims fix the Mayflower's broken main beam. Christopher Martin (an agent representing the non-Separatist group of passengers on the Mayflower) and his wife are on the voyage and are portrayed as self-absorbed snobs. Miles Standish and John Alden command more attention than warranted by previous films or history books; Alden mistakenly assumes Standish is interested in Priscilla Mullins, but Standish simply wants Priscilla to nurse his sickly wife, Rose. The only love interest Jones has is with his ship. A number of events seem to be stock renderings: Standish teaches the settlers how to use firearms; the storms at sea are huge and devastating, etc. The film ends with the settlers' arrival in America and the notation: "The Plymouth Colony flourished...perhaps no other group would ever so completely epitomize the courage, hopes, and dreams of what would become America."
Squanto - A Warrior's Tale (1994)
This Walt Disney film is a fictionalized version of the life of Squanto, the Patuxet Indian who taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops and to hunt for game in the New World. Action-filled and fast-paced, it is geared for a younger audience, but the story contains sufficient informational material to justify adult viewing. As a young man, Squanto was kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery in Spain. He escaped and was rescued by a group of friars who taught him a modicum of the English language, as well as the value of helping others and forgiving one's enemies. The friars helped him board a ship bound for the New World, where he found his entire tribe had been wiped out by disease. The first skirmish with the Pilgrims is depicted, followed by the first Thanksgiving feast, and the declaration of peace between the two groups. (for more on the Indians)
The Crucible (1996) (see title page of The Crucible)
This film serves to contrast the stern Puritan values in 1692 with those of the more tolerant Pilgrims who were subsumed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in that year. Inherent in the plot is the power exerted by a small group of teenage girls who have been repressed by their culture, and the extreme measures a God-fearing religious group use to deal with the situation. When the girls are caught in a "sinful" dance in the forest in the middle of the night, they claim Satan is responsible for their actions. They accuse a number of local citizens of practicing witchcraft in collaboration with Satan. The New England clergy viewed witchcraft as a sign of God's punishment for the settlers' declension from the piety and godliness of their ancestors; e.g., Brewster and Bradford.
Copyright © 2000 by Elsie W. Hamel, Graduate Student at Lehigh University
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