Although Puritanism had some appealing points such as creating a successful community of individuals dedicated to follow idyllic principles, it also exhibited several very constraining points such as suppressing free will through strict and merciless consequences. The Puritans had a very typological view which help shaped their lives and conception of history. Religion controlled almost all aspects of their life where they tried to maintain a community in which people strictly abided by certain laws and punished all who disobeyed these guidelines. Hawthorne criticizes the Puritan society in the Scarlet Letter.
In describing the first scaffold scene he writes, “it could have betokened nothing short of the anticipated execution of some noted culprit, on whom the sentence of a legal tribunal had but confirmed the verdict of public sentiment,”(45). This setting reveals that the whole crowd was there to witness a ruthless public punishment and portrays the beliefs of the Puritans at that time. A stranger describes the punishment for a sin as having “doomed Mistress Prynne to stand only a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and then thereafter, for the remainder of her natural life, to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom.
“(58) This person’s tone shows the weight of moral values in Puritan society during the seventeenth century. Hawthorne also draws attention to the negative aspects of the community when referring to “the city upon a hill,” which exemplifies Puritan idealism and he denounces Puritan morality through the way he depicts the crowds and the community in his novel. This is also mentioned in “A Model of Christian Charity” when John Winthrop states, “we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God…
we shall be made… a by-word through the world… and cause… Curses upon us. “(2) Winthrop’s reprimanding tone indicates that only Puritanism was accepted and that their society was very secluded and not diverse. It was confining because the punishments were harsh and they encouraged a very restrictive lifestyle. The goal that the Puritans were trying to attain was perfection. The Letter “A”, which was a mark of punishment, in Scarlet Letter was a way for the townspeople to maintain their “perfect society” in place and separate themselves from the rest of the world.
They believed that they were God’s chosen people and John Winthrop stresses this point in his argument. He declares the community to be “members of the same body, so shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. “(2) The author seems to feel that a model society must be established where everyone co-exists peacefully with God and each other. This aspect of Puritanism is appealing because it indicates a strong sense of a supportive, caring society. It points out the shared common aspiration of the people during that time when they believed God would fill them with glory.
This is acknowledged when Winthrop admits that “the end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord… under the power and purity of his holy Ordinances. “(1) The Puritans attempted to “purify” their community by discouraging everyone of committing crime or sins and believed that by worshiping god, they would, in turn, be able to progress. In “Huswifery” by Edward Taylor, the speaker is discussing his relationship with God by celebrating what he believes to be divine.
This attitude was one that was help by Puritans in the early seventeenth century, where they tried to appeal to God and believed in predestination. This fond devotion to God is expressed when the speaker states “Then clothe therewith mine understanding, will, /Affections, judgment… My words, and actions, that their shine may fill/ My ways with glory and Thee glorify. “(Lines 13-16) The Puritans wanted to please God and these lines imply their belief that every aspect of life was shaped by the Lord.
The speaker also refers to God when stating “my distaff make for me” (Line 2) and “Make me Thy loom then, knit therein this twine” (Line 7). By depicting God as a spinster, the speaker is offering his soul. He wishes to be seen as worthy in God’s eyes so that, in turn, God will pave his ways with glory. While the Puritans during that time had good intentions, their methods of carrying out their principles were misguided. In fact, they ended up hurting their society through this system of trying to obtain and maintain their idea of “perfection. ” But it is human nature to make mistakes.
This is seen in the Scarlet Letter, when Mr. Dimmesdale was portrayed as being opposed to the harsh laws based on Puritanical principles – even though he was a revered preacher in the town. Although certain characteristics of their religion were appealing, their method of implementing their beliefs resulted in a very constrained and confined society. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate World Literature section.