Richard Frethorne writes home, just as many college students do, to beg of his mother and father. However, the stakes are much higher for him. He begs for food and for their pity and describes to them his sorry state. But how did Frethorne display to his parents the conditions he was living in? And was this letter written only for them to read? Do I have a right to read this letter and how does it affect me? As I examine the set-up, and word-choice of this letter, the audience of this letter and Frethorne's motivations become clear.
The letter Richard Frethorne writes home intends, primarily, for his parents to be his audience. Richard begs his parents to help him. Frethorne¹s primary audience is people who are close to him in spirit and blood though not in miles his parents.The reader knows that Frethorne is writing to his parents because he opens the letter with this salutation, "Loving and kind father and mother." He also refers to his father throughout the letter. He writes, "good father," and "I your child," among other references which convince the reader that the Frethorne's parents were his primary intended audience.
Frethorne, portrays himself as a child, and positions himself as lower or less than his parents. He writes, "my most humble duty remembered to you," and he begs them to send food. "And indeed so I find it now, to my great grief and misery; and saith that if you love me you will redeem me suddenly, for which I do entreat and beg." He is starving and desperate and reaches out to his parents to "have mercy and pity his miserable case." Frethorne positions himself in this way so his parents will understand his position. He writes, "I have nothing to comfort me, nor there is nothing to be gotten here but sickness and death." They have no other points of reference as to his condition other than his letter and it is quite possible that Frethorne has claimed his condition to be worse than it actually is.
In addition to his parents, Frethorne had an intended secondary audience. He writes that he is desperate for food and drink. "I never (eat) anything but peas and loblollie," he writes. His intended secondary audience is any person who reads his letter and is able to help him.
It seems that Frethorne believes his secondary audience to be English. The present-day reader can suppose that this is his secondary audience because of the content of his. His letter begs for the comforts of England: the warmth, food and drink and less grueling labor. He laments, "I am not a half a quarter so strong as I was in England," and, "people cry out day and night -‹Oh! that they were in England without their limb s‹and would not care to lose any limb to be in England again." Frethorne writes patriotically of England for this reason: he hopes to convince the people in England to aid him. He writes in such a way to make the reader take note of how good it is to be in England, and to understand make them understand that he is a good Englishman. Frethorne hopes to appeal to the English reader's patriotic and charitable nature so they will help him.
Although technically I align myself with Frethorne's secondary audience I do not feel that I am his intended secondary audience. I align myself in such a way because I am the intended audience of the historian that deemed this piece worthy of reprinting. I am not Frethorne's parents, and because of time and situation I am not able to aid Frethorne in any way. Nor am I British, and in these ways, I am not his intended audience.
Frethorne's intentions, leave me with the feeling that I am spying into his personal life. Although he intended this letter to be read by others, I cannot help feeling something like a voyeur reading his begging words. This is the case most times I read personal or semi-personal letters. However, I can rationalize this feeling by understanding that as a member of an unintended audience the goal of his words changes. His letter was meant, originally, to evoke feelings of pity and to convince readers to help him in his plight. Because I can not aid him in any way, the goal of his letter changes. The goal of the letter that I am reading is to evoke feelings of pity for Frethorne's situation.
Frethorne's letter accomplishes its desired end. Even though I am not capable of helping Frethorne in any way, his letter does make me feel pity for his state. From my perspective, Frethorne's pleadings are from the heart and are believable and pitiful. I can pity Frethorne's position and state, even though I do not feel that I am the intended audience for his letter. Frethorne's situation was unfortunate and difficult and I feel pity for him because of the conditions of his life. I cannot know what it is like to be his original intended audience, I am now only the historian's audience. But I feel and understand what the historians expected and hoped that I would feel.
I am not the intended audience of Richard Frethorne, but I am the intended audience of the people or group of people who came across this letter and decided that it would be worthwhile for people to read. I am their intended audience and they have positioned me as a reader to feel pity and to gain a better understanding of life as an indentured servant in the early 1600's.
I am the audience that was intended secondly and I perform my job as audience member well. I pity Richard Frethorne's state and I peek into the world of North America in the early 1600's. I read this personal letter written only for the eyes of Richard's parents and others who could help him and question my place as an audience member. Would Frethorne's words, style, or tone have changed if he knew that this letter would be used as a historical reference? Would Frethorne have written the letter at all if he knew that it would be read by thousands?