The Puritan Society In N. Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"



In the introductory sketch to Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel the "The Scarlet
Letter", the reader is informed that one of the author's ancestors
persecuted the Quakers harshly. The latter's son was a high judge in the
Salem witch trials, put into literary form in Arthur Miller's "The
Crucible" (Judge Hathorne appears there). We learn that Hawthorne feels
ashamed for their deeds, and that he sees his ancestors and the Puritan
society as a whole with critical eyes. Consequently, both open and subtle
criticism of the Puritans' practices is applied throughout the novel.

Hawthorne's comments have to be regarded in the context of the settlers'
history and religion. They believe that man is a ...

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of conversion, in which the soul is touched by the Holy Spirit,
so that the believer's heart is turned from sinfulness to holiness, is
another indication that one is of the elect. Faithfulness and piety, rather
than good deeds are what saves people. If someone has sinned, public
confession is believed to take some of the burden of this sin off him.

The initial reason for the Puritans to leave their homes was the treatment
they had to suffer from in their native England. They were brutally
persecuted and were not allowed to practise their religion, because they
said that the beliefs taught by the Anglican church were against the Bible.
When they arrived in the New World, they were confronted with numerous
threats from the outside. Their trying to take land away from the Indians
caused many fights and attacks. Moreover, they had to deal with the total
wilderness surrounding them. Under these frontier conditions, they needed
harmony and peace inside the community in order to ...

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nature",
as culprits are publicly humiliated on the pillory, not being able to hide
their faces. Hawthorne criticises this method of punishment in particular
and the Puritan society in general with irony by calling the pillory "as
effectual an agent in the promotion of good citizenship as the guillotine
in France". As has been pointed out in the introduction, this mode of
confessing and suffering publicly was seen as a way to help the culprit.

These cruelties show the discrepancy between the way the Puritans behave
and the original idea of Christianity. Most of them, for example the
"morally coarse" women who cry at Hester, are not capable of forgiving,
mercy or neighbourly love. They ...

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Added: 7/4/2007 08:09:21 PM
Category: Book Reports
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 1538
Pages: 6

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