The New England Primer - Wikispaces

The New England Primer
 Comment on the view of the child evident in The New England Primer. How is a
dutiful, good child supposed to behave?
~ A child is expected to be pious, love everyone, study grammar, and fear
God’s omnipotent power. The poem “the dutiful child’s promises”
outlines these guidelines.
The New England Primer urges the child reader to “Have communion with few/
Be intimate with ONE.” What is the meaning of these two lines?
~ The meaning of these two lines could mean that one should be obedient
to only ONE God, and worship no idols, and to acknowledge no others.
… also it may discourage adultery. …And yeah.
 The New England Primer clearly contains lettering, spelling, and capitalization
that are antiquated, or out of date. For example, most of the s’s in it look like f’s.
This was common in the penmanship of earlier centuries. What irregular and old
fashioned spellings do you find in The Primer? What is peculiar about the
capitalization by modern standards? Can you detect any pattern in capitalization?
o Old English language- honOUR, superiOUR, whipt, doth
o Some in all camps- GOD, KING
o Capitalize and italicize the letter/word that corresponds with the alphabet
 Some irregularities- Queen Esther
We thought some of the capitalized words were people you were supposed
to respect and how you’re supposed to respect them. Also, first poem
capitalizes the things the child is supposed to focus on in his learning
 “The Dutiful Child Promises” ends with a striking metaphor, “For our GOD is a
consuming Fire.” What conception of God does this metaphor imply? What effect
is this comparison supposed to have on a child reader?
o Conceptions of GOD – Implies that GOD is all-powerful like a fire that
will CONSUME YOU…and you can’t touch him
o Child Perceptions – Fear, pray, be afraid, punisher
o Tried to scare kids into acting well “moral education”
 Notice that the alphabet couplets in The New England Primer contain numerous
Biblical allusions, such as the opening reference to “Adam’s Fall.” Locate 2 or 3
other Biblical allusions and explain them.
o Peter: Lord told Peter that he’d deny him but Peter didn’t think it’d
happen. Later, Peter denies to Romans that he was a follower of Jesus and
he hears the rooster cry, like Jesus said it would.
o Book: Bible is referred to as “Book”
o Zacheus: climbs the tree to see Jesus speak, and later dines with Jesus
 All of the material in The New England Primer is designed to mold the child
reader into an ideal person and a responsible member of society. Describe the
ideal The Primer sets up. What qualities in a human being does it emphasize most
o Honor, obedience to God, parents, King,
o Don’t question authority
o Obedience = don’t get hurt
o Life temporary & everyone dies eventually
o Biblical education – references to Bible through learning
o Encourage hard work in children
- focus + diligence = possible elect
Notice the alphabet couplets can be classified into four categories: practical
advice, observations of nature, political and patriotic messages, and religious
teachings. Indicate the category to which each couplet belongs. What do these
four groupings suggest about the human ideal that The Primer is trying to
o Examples: F-whipt at school S- religious teachings K- talks about king Eobservation of nature
o Ideal person is pious and obedient, death is inevitable, fear God