Puritanism in the Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s representative work, is a classical novel in American literature in the 19th century. The novel displays Puritanism’s great impact on people's life and thought. This thesis will give a picture of puritans’ life and ideology through the analysis of the Puritan town Boston and some related characters, and introduce how the communities in the town are deeply influenced by Puritanism. Meanwhile, by analyzing the main character Hester, the thesis will present the harshness and the strict punishment in Puritan society. In Puritan communities, whoever commits a sin will be punished. The thesis also presents Hawthorne’s attitude towards Puritanism. On one hand, he appreciates the Puritan thought and value; on the other hand, he condemns the negative impact of Puritan society on people’s spirit.

Key Words: Puritanism, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Boston,Hester



A. Puritans

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was written in 18th century. The setting of The Scarlet Letter is in the 17th century in Boston, America. Before proceeding to the analysis of the Puritanism in the novel, some fundamental definitions need to be established. Who were the Puritans? When did they arrive in the New World—America? How about their ideology and lifestyle? How about the author?

Puritan is the name given in the 16th century to the more extreme Protestants within the Church of England. These Protestants thought the English Reformation had not gone far enough in reforming the doctrines and structure of the church. They wanted to purify their church. In the 17th century many Puritans immigrated to the New World, where they sought to found a holy Commonwealth in New England. “The Puritans did not allow religious dissent (holding different religious belief).They insisted that high position,and achievements were signs of ‘eternal grace’, that is, favour of God, and they wanted to force...
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