#NFBookClub Mayflower Discussion Part 2

December 22, 2016 Uncategorized 3

This week, it’s time to wrap up our discussion of Mayflower. This book was both the pick for our Nonfiction Book Club this month and part of Lory at Emerald City Book Review’s Reading New England Challenge. Be sure to check out her answers to our discussion questions and join in the conversation! I’ll post the questions first and then add my answers below, with a link-up at the bottom.

1. Having finished the author’s more nuanced portrayal of the pilgrims’ story, do you think either the founding myths (“the time-honored tradition of how the Pilgrims came to symbolize all that is good about America and the now equally familiar modern tale of how the evil Europeans annihilated the innocent Native Americans”) is accurate?

 2. Do you think the conflict between the European settlers and the Native Americans was inevitable?

 3. In the conflict, do you think one side clearly had the moral high ground?

 4. Was there anything that particularly surprised you in the second half of the book?

 5. Overall, what did you think of the book?

1. Having finished the author’s more nuanced portrayal of the pilgrims’ story, do you think either the founding myths (“the time-honored tradition of how the Pilgrims came to symbolize all that is good about America and the now equally familiar modern tale of how the evil Europeans annihilated the innocent Native Americans”) is accurate?

I started this book thinking that the two stories were contradictory. I expected to find both of these mythologies simplistic and inaccurate after reading the author’s more detailed story. I actually finished it believing that both were correct in their own way. It seems as though the Native Americans did help the pilgrims at first and did celebrate with them afterwards. However, relationships did eventually degenerate and the pilgrims massacred many of the Native Americans with little concern for age, gender, or tribal affiliations.

2.Do you think the conflict between the European settlers and the Native Americans was inevitable?

Almost the opposite! One of the main points I took away from this book was how easily conflict could have been avoided. It seems as though individuals on both sides were at times arrogant, intolerant, or foolishly unaware their actions would exacerbate the conflict. A conflict over land may eventually have been inevitable, but I don’t think it had to be a conflict between colonists and Native Americans. With different individuals in charge, I could see relationships between different colonies and different tribes strengthening to the point where conflict might have happened between alliances instead.

3. In the conflict, do you think one side clearly had the moral high ground?

Although people on both sides made poor decisions and committed immoral acts of violence during their conflict, I thought the view of the colonists as the bad guys was pretty accurate. From the beginning, the Native Americans were willing to treat the colonists as part of another sovereign nation. I don’t think the colonists extended that same respect to the Native American tribes. The colonists seemed to expect the Native Americans to keep treaties, but broke their promises any time they liked. They seemed to expect the Native Americans to submit to their justice system, but bent their own rules to unfairly punish Native American defendants at will. Finally, the colonists seemed far more likely to massacre noncombatants. I’m sure no one behaved perfectly, but I thought the colonists were clearly more in the wrong.

4. Was there anything that particularly surprised you in the second half of the book?

Actually, one of the things that surprised me most was the rate at which the colonists consumed natural resources, particularly wood and land. After the author’s assertion that the well known stories of the pilgrims were both wrong, I was also surprised by how clear it was to me that the colonists were in the wrong.

5. Overall, what did you think of the book?

Honestly, Lory described the second part of the book as a bit of a slog and that resonated with me. I wished the author had zoomed in more on individual people. I had a hard time keeping track of all of the people he mentioned briefly and I didn’t feel especially connected to any of the historical figures. The ending seemed inevitable, so I didn’t find the book very suspenseful either. I thought the writing was good and had the potential to be engaging, but the content didn’t quite draw me in.


In case you found this a bit of a slog too, the link-up will be open until Jan 15th.

3 Responses to “#NFBookClub Mayflower Discussion Part 2”

  1. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Thanks again for co-hosting this readalong! I finally made it through and I know what you mean about not feeling especially connected to any of the historical figures. I’m not sure why, but Philbrick’s style kept me at a distance from them. The focus was more on larger movements and events than on individual people, I suppose. Anyway, I hope you still found it worthwhile — I did.
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…Reading New England: Mayflower Discussion Part IIMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks for inviting me to co-host! I also felt disconnected from the characters, but I definitely found it a worthwhile read 🙂