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Free «“The Wordy Shipmates” by Sarah Vowell» Essay Sample

The Wordy Shipmates is a book written by Sarah Vowell. In the book, she points out the Puritans and the varying facets of forming of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Vowell perceives the Puritans as a writing based set of individuals. First of all, this is because their lives were influenced by the Bible writings, pamphlets or literature. The Wordy Shipmates begins with stating that a belief is more treacherous than an idea (Vowell 1). The author supports this statement by arguing that religion has been paramount for the Puritans. The content of the book demonstrated that a belief resulted in tension and arguments amid individuals with differing opinions (Vowell 5-6). On a dialy basis, people experience a conflict of ideas. If people believe in something, their lives revolve around it. If their lifestyle is criticised, this is not taken as a kind gesture, but as an insult that results into conflict. In England the Puritans worked with people who opposed their views. Thus, it caused tension and violence and forced them to move to another land.


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Vowel talks of political, social and economic events that took place in the lives of the Puritans whilst describing their lifestyle. Religion is also one of the main objects of discussion in the book, and it is clear that the degree of religious beliefs varies from one Puritan to another. The importance that the Puritans put on religion resulted in occurrences that are presently pertinent to America. The Puritans perceived themselves as a gift of God to the novel land and believed, just as the Israelites, that they were the chosen people (Vowell 2). Vowell thinks that those who discovered this nation were insane (Vowell 19). She affirms that though the Puritans deemed themselves superior to others, since they were provided with the land and a chance to assist others, they took away the Indian’s land and brought forth the diseases unto them.

According to Vowell, Americans are poorly educated regarding the history of America and its origin. They have learned the history from the overemphasized forms of popular art (Vowell 21). Moreover, Americans take everything they see for granted and they usually associate the Puritans with such words as “dull”, “boring”, and “conservative”. The emphasis on education is evidenced in their desire for knowledge and commitment to higher education (Vowell 22). Vowell considers that Americans’ dedication to education as well as the capacity to read and write was essential and is still important..

Vowell sets the tone of the book with her opening statements, for example, “The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. And by dangerous I don’t mean thought-provoking. I mean: might get people killed” (Vowell 1). The tone of the book is dry, sarcastic and witty, and its powerful content draws the reader’s attention.


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