It is difficult to draw parallels between the staunch beliefs of Puritan society in colonial America and the freedom experienced in the country today. The Puritans lived strict lives based on a literal interpretation in the Bible, and constantly emphasized a fear of God and a fear of sin. Modern society looks at this negative view of humanity as a whole as an out-dated opinion from the past, believing that, "Now people know better than that." However, faults in human nature can not be completely erased by the passing of time and the modernization of society. People still have emotions of love, compassion, envy, and pride; and many types of interpersonal relationships within their community. Puritan literature focuses on all people's instinct to protect their best interest and the lengths they will go to keep blame from themselves. Society emphasizes the sins of others rather than facing the faults in itself as seen through Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter and The Minister's Black Veil, and Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible. The authors criticize society's use of punishment, intolerance, and hypocrisy in dealing with sin.
Puritanism viewed religion and law as almost identical, making Puritan societies strict theocracies with clergy exclusively controlling people's lives. Puritanism was also based on a somewhat fatalistic view of the human race, as seen in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. The founders of Boston were said to, "have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another as the site of a prison" (33). Puritans believed that people were basically sinful and should be mercilessly punished for strayi...
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...with the components of punishment executed by modern authorities. Defense lawyers, probation, and the phrase, "Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," have replaced public humiliation and social isolation. Unalienable rights are now mapped out by the constitution as well as other components of a democratic government. In The Scarlet Letter, a townsman said, "It must gladden your heart…to find yourself, at length, in a land where iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people" (Hawthorne, 43). Look at the current events, scandals, and crimes, and this statement could apply to descriptions of many justice situations today. Has society really surpassed the criticized methods of the Puritan era's justice, or is it that the underlying principals remain the same?
The Scarlet Letter
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