Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing will help our introduction to American literature. While there are many voice and location to begin an American literature course, this historical novel may help us appreciate the colonial invasion from the Native American point of view as the Wompanag tribe has been living as a community for thousands of years on the island of Noepe, what later became knows as Martha’s Vineyard.
This novel opens up the North American land story by helping us understand how Native Americans viewed the land and lived with the other species on the land. Reflect on scenes where Caleb show Bethia how to plant crops in the three sisters manner, rather than ripping open the land. Note how Native American thought that oxen and horses ruined clam beds and other parts of the natural world. Contrast this point of view to how the colonists are “developing” the land the way they see fit for prospering. What are the two ideologies regarding the relationship each culture? We can also appreciate how most of the novel occurs right before the King Phillips War; it also provides an visceral chapter of how the Native American were on a long train of disposition of their lands by disease.
Bethia’s grandfather also wanted independence (part of our cultural DNA) and chose to live on the island to get away from the strict and severe rule of the Massachusetts Bay Company, governed by Jonathan Winthrop at the time. In the opening of this interview with Leonard Lopate, Geraldine Brooks compares Winthrop’s ruling style to the Taliban: http://www.wnyc.org/story/127847-geraldine-brooks-her-novel-calebs-crossing/
The novel will also help us appreciate the historical background to our major work of the term, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.
We’ll explore the colonial experience from the point of view of a young girl. In the worlds of books, Bethia echoes other great young, curious girls such as Jane Eyre.