Puritanism In The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, had a large influence of a very popular religion during the 17th century, known as Puritanism. The Oxford Encyclopedia defines Puritanism as “religious sensibility centered around conservation” (?). The reason behind many people traveling to America during the 1600s from England was only for one specific reason: religious freedom (Joselit). “For leaving England for what would become New England, the Puritans were not seeking economic opportunity and security for themselves and their families. They were on a religious mission or, what later became known in Puritan circle as an “errand into the wilderness””(Joselit, 21). The first set of Puritans came to America in 1620, and started a colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts. By the 1640s, there were over twenty-five thousand English settlers in New England. The group of Puritans that settled in the 1630s lived in an area that they named the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which is present day Boston. This is where the setting of The Scarlet Letter takes place (Joselit). The author of this novel, Nathaniel Hawthorne, grew up in Salem so the setting cof this novel played a large role in his life. Hawthorne was the “great-grandson of the Salem Witch Trials judge John Hathorne” (Brooks). However, he changed his last name, adding a “W” because he was “haunted by his connection to his ancestor” (Brooks), and possibly because he wanted to distance himself from his family name. His family had a very large past in the Salem Witch Trials; it is said all of the following members of his family were somehow related to the trials: “Mary and Philip English, John Proctor and Sarah Wilson, as well as one of the accusers: Sarah Phelps. Nathaniel’s great uncle... ... middle of paper ... ...divine had plied it on his own shoulders, laughing bitterly at himself the while, and smiting so much the more pitilessly because of that bitter laugh” (Ch. 11). Dimmesdale is a very well respected man, and minister in the colony, which is why it makes absolutely no sense at all as to why he would commit the sin of adultery. . . . . . . Puritanism played a very big role in The Scarlet Letter, and it is clear that the religion affected the lives of all the characters. The life of a Puritan was very difficult, which is seen during the whole novel, and it is clear how the harsh punishments changed the lives of many people. Even the people who were not punished lived in fear, hoping that the consequences of certain actions would never happen to them. The Scarlet Letter perfectly displays the difficulties and hardships people faced while being part of a Puritan colony.
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