Puritan Hypocrisy in the Scarlet Letter

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Hypocrisy of the Puritans
“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward (New American Bible Matthew 6:16).” The Puritans that settled into Massachusetts in the seventeenth century were some of the most religious people to be seen throughout History. Prior to landing in America they had already abandoned two countries in order to “purify,” their Puritan religion and find a place where they could be guided by faith alone. The basis of Puritanism was predestination, the belief that one was already predestined to go to heaven or hell. The Bible clearly states that hypocrites have already received their reward, meaning they will most likely go to hell. Certainly the Puritans in Massachusetts would look down upon such people, who appear gloomy to display their sacrifices to others, yet the most holy Puritans in Massachusetts were the biggest hypocrites of them all. A person looking to critically analyze literature has many different options and angles he or she could take. One of these is historical, in which the critic attempts to explain or analyze the novel through the events of the time period of the book or the time period of the novel. Influenced by stories of the Salem Witch Trials and Anne Hutchinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne presented his ideas of religion in the time period the novel was written. In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Puritan hypocrisy is a theme that prominently seen throughout the novel through actions and beliefs of the Puritan community.

One of the best examples of Puritan hypocrisy occurs in the very last line of the novel, the message engraved into Hester and Dimmesdale’s gravestone, “On a field, sable, the letter A, gules,” (Hawthorne 203). On a black field, the letter “A” is boldly red. The irony is in the fact that the Puritan’s describe their community as a field of black. The...
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