A Person's Humanness in The Flesh and the Spirit, a Poem by Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Flesh and the Spirit” serves as a literary piece that explores the binaries that are present in her religious beliefs. The two voices of the poem are two sisters, the spirit and the flesh, and they serve as a distinct and clear example of each element in human nature. The spirit is moral and follows the ways of God. The flesh is immoral, representing the flaws that are present in everyone; Christians and sinners included. By demonstrating the duality of a believer, Bradstreet was able to give a better perspective of someone as an individual, not just a believer.

The function of this poem is to show the humaneness of a person, regardless of what one’s religious belief is. The author uses the two elements, the flesh and the spirit, to demonstrate how everyone in her community is equal. The duality of a carnal and spirit side is personified through the relationship of the flesh and the spirit.

They are sisters; being similar and different all in one. The same concerns that a believer have are the same concerns a non-believer have. The author herself struggled with understanding all elements to her religious belief .

According to one of the “Meditations Bradstreet wrote for her children, she was troubled many times about the truth of the scriptures, she never saw any convincing miracles, and she always wondered if the miracles she read about “were feigned” (218). By writing this piece, Bradstreet is able to show light on her religion and how there is disbelief for both the sinner and the believer.

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By show the imperfections, one group doesn’t feel inferior to the other, making them unify.

The Spirit in the poem is the perspective of the believer. A believe can be defined through the text as someone who subscribe to a set of religious beliefs. this part of an individual is usually cultivated through religious practices or traditions. The text was written during the period of the Puritans, a strict group of religious believers. This spiritual perspective allows the reader to see how one of religious faith would think and react in certain scenarios of life. This is a sense of pride and security that comes with being a believer. “And combat with thee will and must/Until I see thee laid in th’ dust” (41-42). Also, this monologue from the Spirit allows the audience to see and understanding reasoning.”

How oft they slave, hast thou me made,

When I believed what thou hast said,

And never had more cause of woe

Than when I did what thou bad’st do (51-54).

From Bradstreet’s depiction, the Spirit is of sound mind and have an understanding of what it means to live a holy life. This was the preconceived notion about religious people and Bradstreet played with that. She was able to preserve herself from being prosecuted by her religious community, as well as add this element to the argument.

The flesh embodies a carnal mind, not yet aware of the position God plays. This perspective can easily be equated with a sinner, someone who is not moral or righteous in the traditional sense. The is not cultivated through spiritual guidance. This perspective describes the individuals of the community who does not follow these religious doctrines, nor have an understanding of these doctrines.

Art fancy sick, or turned a sot

To catch at shadows which are not?

Come, come, I’ll show unto thy sense,

Industry hath its recompense (19-22).

The flesh personifies someone who wants to see the evidence of God, someone who ultimately does not have ‘blind-faith.’ The author had to be careful with how she presents the notion of everyone goes through these “self-doubts”; she could not appear as a non-believer. By exposing these ideas, Bradstreet shows that carnality is present in everyone; one just have to work to become a good Christian.

The key that explains how this poem was not just about bashing sinners and exalting those who believe, is in a line during spirit’s monologue. The author made a conscience decision to show that there is a natural battle between the sprit and the flesh, that occurs in everyone.

Forfrom one father we are not,

Thou by old Adam wast begot

But my arise is from above

Whence my dear father do I love (45-48).

By demonstrating that all of mankind are equal, based upon man’s fall from grace, Bradstreet evens out the playing field. Bradstreet’s poem ultimately discusses a binary while showing the similarities are far greater than the differences. By showing this similarity, Bradstreet was able to create a dialogue between both sects of her community, bringing them together.

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A Person's Humanness in The Flesh and the Spirit, a Poem by Anne Bradstreet. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-person-s-humanness-in-the-flesh-and-the-spirit-a-poem-by-anne-bradstreet/

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