Christopher Columbus's Letters Regarding his Voyages

Scholars describe Christopher Columbus as a lover of the Indies who served as a General Captain at a firm called Crown of Castile. In August 1492, Columbus sets out to explore the East Indies sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. He, however, docks at the Carribean Islands of America and thinks he has reached the Coast of the Indies. Christopher Columbus then writes a letter to Luis de Santagel reporting on his experience of the voyage while still at sea on his return journey. Later, Columbus sets out on a real admiral exploration to the Islands he had identified of Hispaniola and Juana. He, however, encounters a stormy sea in his voyage that leaves him despaired and eventually does not even make it to these Islands and the best he can reach is Jamaica. This work thus attempts to compare the two letters of Columbus based on the tone and diction used in each, with Columbus expressing optimism in the first letter and despair in the fourth letter.

Christopher Columbus, in his first letter, states happily how he discovered and reined various Islands on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Asia that included Hispaniola and Juana. In the fourth letter, Columbus narrates about the travails that he and his team of sailors go through on the stormy sea that they were extremely weary and unable to conclude their journey successfully. Columbus, for instance, exaggerates the size and wealth of the two Islands stating that Juana was large compared to Great Britain (“maior que Inglaterra y Escocia juntas”) and Hispaniola larger than Iberian Peninsula (“en cierco tiene mas quela Espanatala”) (Columbus, The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 2004). He admiringly argues that the Islands had a vast of wealth ranging from gold, metals, and precious stones among other valuables. On his fourth voyage, Columbus exposes to us how a terrible storm found them at   sea to the extent that the ships parted from him each of them reduced to an extremity. All sailors on voyage thought that the other had died.

Columbus went ahead describing the natives Arawaks (Indiano) as docile and amenable. He thus prospects that they could be easily converted to Catholic Christianity. Christopher then urges Catholic monarchs for sponsorship of a second larger expedition to the Indies with a promise of bringing wealth and converting more people. Columbus had the impression that the natives Arawaks were hospitable from his first voyage, when he halted at Cariay on his fourth voyage and halted to repair the ships and replenish stores and at least relax as they were weak. (Columbus, Journals, The Life of Christopher Columbus - From His Own Letters and, 2008) He took the company of two Indians to Carambau where people went naked and had a golden mirror hanging at the neck, but were unwilling to sell or exchange it for other valuables.

Furthermore, Christopher Columbus depicts the Islands in his first voyage as suitable prospects for colonization. Basing on their rich natural resources, Columbus exposes the islands as excellent for planting and cultivation due to its rich soils, suitable for rearing livestock and constructing towns and farms. (“Gruesas para planta y senbrar, para hedificios de villas e lugares, para criara ganados de todas suertes”). He then does not give more details of his journey apart from saying that it took him 33 days. In the letter concerning his fourth voyage, on the other hand, he describes in detail almost every bit of the whole journey all trying to reveal the harsh conditions subjected to them during the voyage.

Summarily, from the first letter concerning the first voyage, Columbus expresses the hope of conquering the West Indies as he attributes it to a wealth of resources such as gold, precious stones, rich soils and a docile people. In the fourth letter, on the other hand, Columbus narrates in detail about the hostile conditions they went through especially the stormy sea that left them weary and the Indians that were not that hospitable as he thought. Hence, it can be said that the two letters examined depict two contrasting tones and diction. Indeed, calm weather precedes every storm.

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