Essay, Research Paper
The Puritans had a heavily important part in the formation of early America, as well as a religion that influenced our early American society. This society has been the target which many authors have picked to set their novels in. The topic of Puritan life contains a broad list of aspects that can be easily compared to one another in several different books. Two selections that go into detail about some of the different aspects of the Puritan people are The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, and The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. These two particular writers who wrote of Puritan times conveyed, in their text, the similarities of religion, punishment, and adultery in the Puritan community of 17th century.
Briefly, The Crucible looks at some the actual historical events of the Salem witch trials. It was witchcraft that the story was set around, and it threatened the purity of the Salem community. As a result, frenzy was established, with characters accusing others of witchery.
In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne commits the sin of adultery, and then is confined to wear an embroidered scarlet-colored ?A? on her chest, to signify what she had done. She does not release the name of the other adulterer, and leads a life with her daughter, Pearl. Reverend Dimmesdale, the secret father of the child, struggles against himself due to the fact that he doesn?t confess to everyone his sin.
Religion was of great importance in the Puritan society. It gave a guideline for the morals that citizens should follow. In Miller?s novel, Puritan religion was at the center of town. People were judged by it, and were only and not with the devil holy if they followed it. They were also questioned by it. Hale asks Proctor, ?? I note that you are rarely in the church on Sabbath Day. Twenty-six time in seventeen month, sir? Will you tell me why you are so absent?? (Miller 64) An example of the strictness of religion and moral beliefs in The Scarlet Letter is when Hester is patronized for her sin. The religion forbid it, therefore it was strongly frowned upon by society. This strong following of Puritan religion is conveyed in both novels and mentioned throughout.
As law is in most communities today, there is no doubt that religion was put on one of the highest pedestals of the Puritan community. Due to the fact that religion was followed so avidly, those who went and sinned against it were faced and subject to harsh punishments.
? as befitted a people amongst whom religion and law were almost identical, and in whose character both were so thoroughly interfused, that the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful. (Hawthorne 35)
Both novels chose to convey this aspect because of its importance in the society.
Punishment may come in many forms and degrees. Sometimes it is difficult to find the right punishment to fit the crime, however it is needed to keep a group of people from absolute chaos. In The Crucible, those who are charged of practicing witchcraft and being ?seen with the devil? are given a chance to redeem themselves by confessing, even if they are innocent. If the accused refuse to confess, their punishment is death, and they are sentenced death by being hung. Hester Prynne was punished by being condemned to wear the scarlet-colored ?A? on her chest, reminding everyone in the community, as well as her own self, of the sin that she had committed. Also, Hester was ordered to stand upon the scaffold with Pearl for the whole public to see. This punishment perhaps humiliates Hester, being yet another way of punishment. These two scenes let us know as readers that there was no room going against beliefs in the Puritan society. Immediate action had to be taken.
It is because of this strictness that the Puritans were known to have strong morals and religious beliefs. But was everything perfect and holy all the time? Were there people who really did sin? According to the novels by Arthur Miller and Nathaniel Hawthorne, not everyone was as saintly as people nowadays would picture them to be.
Not entirely different from Puritan times, today many people stand to commit the sin of adultery, as they did in these two novels. In The Crucible, a married man, John Proctor, briefly cheats on his wife with a much younger girl of the village, Abigail Williams. Goody Proctor (John Proctor?s wife) was feeling ill at the time, so it was convenient for Mr. Proctor. He hides this sin from society until the end of the novel, but nevertheless, he did in fact take part in that sin and he is guilty of it. During The Scarlet Letter, Roger Chillingworth (Hester?s husband), is away on business, Hester Prynne finds herself guilty of the same crime as that of John Proctor. While by herself, she and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale commit adultery, and in return Hester gives birth to a daughter, who she names Pearl.
This act of ?unholyness? is mentioned in both novels to convey to the reader that not everyone of the Puritan community ever sins. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life, and men and women have been doing it for many years, as they will continue.
Both The Scarlet Letter and the Crucible were written for the main point of criticizing the Puritan way of life, and the Puritans over-reactions to sin. Hawthorne and Miller both used adultery to illustrate this point.
The books The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter were written about Puritan times. Conveyed in their text were the similarities of religion, punishment, and adultery in the Puritan community of 17th century. The subject of Puritan ways contains many different aspects that are compared to one another in several different books. Novels have been chosen to go into detail about some of the different aspects of the Puritan people, as they were very important part in the history of early America.
Works CitedMichael. ?Seventeenth Century Life/ Scarlet Letter. http://www.planetpapers.com/Assets/905.html March 1, 2000.