When prompted with the word “Puritan”, one conjures up images of The Crucible, of sexual repression, and of a strict theocratic society. Puritans have been stereotyped as a group of religious extremist who deemed all forms of sexual gratification as sinful. Nowadays, the word Puritan is used as a disparaging insult, applied to those who are too righteous towards sexuality. In actuality, Puritans attitudes concerning sexuality were more broad-minded than this. Indeed, they advocated for sex in the marital bed as long as it did not interfere with religion, and were strongly intolerant of fornication, and adultery. As depicted in The Crucible when John Proctor is partly condemned for committing adultery, and as illustrated in the political cartoon entitled “She was naughty, darling” by Alain where a woman is being penalized for adultery (this can be inferred by the letter “A” on her clothing), it appears as if breaking “marital rules” had to be swiftly punished, lest the people suffer under God. However, make no mistake that Puritans understood the incapacity for humans to break the rules. The puritan visual imagery of the cartoon pictured above most definitely does not perpetuate puritanical stereotypes, and in fact, accurately portrays their religious and martial beliefs.
They symbolism of the letter “A” pinned to the adulteress’s clothing, reminiscent of Hester Prynne the female protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work The Scarlet Letter who committed adultery while her husband was thought to have been lost at sea and was branded with a big red A, represents a true elucidation of Puritan punishment concerning sexual deviance. As previously mentioned, Puritans were severely ...
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...more compassionate penalty one would say. The cartoon is also a commentary on the 1940s and 1950s, 20 years before the sexual revolution. Victorian morality was created by society, but can be loosely tied back to Puritan morals. The cartoonist effectively conveys his message about sexual repression, and his view about sexual aberrance. He strives to disparage young, white girls from engaging in unmoral relationships that go against societal expectations. Committing adultery means that one becomes “tainted” and an embarrassment, much like how the Puritans embellished adulterers with “A’s”. The cartoon is attempting to police who one has sex with, and to guilt those who stray. Nevertheless, public opinion concerning the Puritans bigoted reputation is widely inaccurate, and learning more about these people can help construct a more refined clarification of their legacy.
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