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English 4 Lesson 35: In what ways was Penn an advocate of middle class morality?

William Penn’s support of middle class morality was overtly manifested in his many observations and few aphorisms of “Fruits of Solitude.” This particular collection of epigrams reinforced widely held opinions that reflected middle-class Protestant values. How did Penn advocate this morality, of which only the middle class applied to their everyday lives?

There are several intellectual challenges that a person may encounter when creating aphorisms. These statements must meet several, seemingly impossible qualitative requirements. Aphorisms are usually brief and therefore, should be relatively memorable. They should also be clever and plausible to the reader. They are meant to offer a moral lesson, though this is unfailingly a rare occurrence. Finding his preferences in the simplicity and privacy of rural life, Penn was content with taking the “middle path”.

He let the reader to achieve fulfillment in choosing the middle path for all circumstances of life.  His examples encompassed family thrift, business, food, apparel, and religious practices. In reality, the middle class would seek the middle ground in the accumulation of wealth and prodigality, adventurism and caution, hunger and satiation, fashion and rags, etc. So much so, that a person could inherently enjoy the balance of living a healthy and prosperous life. He also described the many blessings of the common.

Penn surmised that the Christian man was the common man.  Common things were good things.  He informed the reader to not commit to the best, or accumulate items that properly belong to rich households.  Due to his hostility towards Anglicanism (which sat at the top of the social order), he strove for no commonality between the two ways of life.

As a Quaker leader, the topic of religion became one of the most lengthiest sections in this book of epigrams. For instance, Penn believed the fear of God to be the beginning of wisdom, while good works were the fruits of that initial and ultimate fear. He determined that faith linked the two together.  Penn also wrote about man’s blindness to their condition of subordination to God. He recommended the study of nature to be a cure for the spiritual blindness that man has accumulated over time. This all ties into his spiritual outlook that was majorly Protestant. Industry was greatly favored by Penn.

For example: “Patience and Diligence, like Faith, remove Mountains” In this aphorism, we previously understand prayer and faith to be methods capable of moving mountains (spiritually). He thought that if a man added patience and diligence to his faith, he could eventually improve any area of his life. Materials such as money and clothing were well-attended topics.

Penn imagined the middle road to be the safe road. This idea was the common thread throughout his observations, in correspondence to his promotion of middle-class morality. He approved moderation as the concrete principle that could institute firm values in one’s life.  This principle also happened to only appeal to the status of an ordinary middle-class family. We can deduce that Penn’s views were the views of industrious nonconformists in religion. He was surely an advocate for the morality of the middle-class.

Thanks for reading this essay! More than half of these ideas weren’t mine, but I tried my best to get the point across. I’ll be posting more soon and have a blessed rest of your day!

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