Calvinism: A Look Into Domestic Life in Catherine Sedgwick's Novel, A New England Tale

Calvinism: A Look Into Domestic Life in Catherine Sedgwick's Novel, A New England Tale

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Catharine Sedgwick’s novel, A New-England Tale, tells the story of an orphan, Jane Elton, who “fights to preserve her honesty and her dignity in a household where religion is much talked about but little practiced” (Back Cover). The story take place in the 1820s, a time when many children were suffering in silence due to the fact that there was really no way to get people to understand exactly how bad things were for them. The only way anyone could ever really get a true understanding of the lives of the children in these households would be by knowing what took place in their homes. Outside of the home these women seemed perfectly normal and there was not reason to suspect any crookedness. The author herself was raised by a woman of Calvinist religion and realized how unjust things were for her and how her upbringing had ultimately play at role on her outcome. Sedgwick uses her novel, A New-England Tale to express to her readers how dreadful life was being raised by women of Calvinist religion and it’s affect by depicting their customary domestic life. She takes her readers on an in deep journey through what a typical household in the 1820s would be like providing them with vivid descriptions and reenactments of the domestic life during this period.
In the novel, Mrs. Wilson, a woman of Calvinist religion has taken in her niece Jane after the death of her parents. During one of their first conversations, Mrs. Wilson immediately expresses one of the important guidelines of her household to her niece after she sees she is not as easily swayed as she first thought. “I tell you once for all, I allow no child in my house to know right from wrong: children have no reason, and they ought to be very thankful, when they fall into the ...


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...It is not clear if Mrs. Wilson realized the affect of her tactics on her children but, it is clear to the reader that they have a negative affect. In the earlier parts of the text, the narrator points out this fact in stating that “Mrs. Wilson children produced such fruits as might be expected from her culture” (23). The word culture is used instead of simply religion because Mrs. Wilson took her religion well beyond its bounds. The oppressive lifestyle she forced her children, David and Elvira, as well as Jane to live lives that are merely failed and fruitless. He son David has grown up with little work ethic, poor, and criminal life of no value. Her daughter Elvira is a scheming, unintelligent, loveless young women who has grown up to make nothing of herself and Jane remains a pious, unhappy, searching young women who potential has been used for no good purpose.

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