The Good, the Bad, and the Puritans
Exodus Chapter twenty, verse 14 reads, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Being one of the Ten Commandments given to the prophet Moses, this declaration from God was strictly obeyed by the Puritans. Those found guilty of breaking this law, and any other of the Ten, were severely punished to a degree determined by the leader of the church. Hester Prynne, the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, is exposed as an adulteress-which creates the main conflict in the novel. Hester willingly sins against the laws of the church, thus causing the tragedy.
Puritanism started in the sixteenth century as a movement to reform the Church of England. Puritanism accepted the interpretations of John Calvin on the nature of man, free will and predestination, and other basic concepts. Puritanism became, after the restoration of Charles II as king in 1660, nonconformity and polarized into three major denominations–the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist sects. The Puritans saw God as the awesome Father-God of the Old Testament and emphasized His majesty, righteousness, and control of the universe to achieve His just ends. They believe God’s grace is freely given, but only a chosen amount of people are saved through Christ’s atonement. The setting of The Scarlett Letter takes place in Salem, Massachusetts during the 1800’s where the hoi polloi of Salem, during this time period, were mostly puritan, including their most sanguine member, Hester Prynne. The Scarlet Letter conjures varying opinions on who is most at fault in the novel. Different people have different views. Some prefer themselves as Romantics and believe that Hester Prynne is not at fault, but it is the evil of society that has caused this awful tragedy. It is true that the society of Salem was heinous and bilious towards Hester. It is true that the society took things a little too far with the punishment, and how they treated her. It is true that they...
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