The Scarlet Letter and Its Portrayal of 17th Century Colonial Puritanism

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The Scarlet Letter and its Portrayal of 17th Century Colonial Puritanism The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathanial Hawthorne, is a novel which epitomizes 17th century Puritanism as well as its social and political implications on the people of Massachusetts Bay. The story exemplifies the contemporary social hypocrisy of the time which was characteristic of New England’s insecurity as a fairly new colony. The Puritans pushed to distance themselves from the corruptions of the Church of England they had left behind by forging their own moral and social identity based upon strictly fundamentalist principles. The protagonist of the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, challenged these institutions through her behavior as well as her presentation entirely. Hester’s experiences challenge popular beliefs and suggest that the predecessors of United States were founded on the basis of repressive ideals rather than those of freedom and personal liberty. It’s important to take the social and political context of the Scarlet Letter into consideration when putting its historical value into perspective. A common misconception about New England was that it was politically theocratic; however, politics and religion remained separated under specific bylaws. In saying this, the extent to which religion influenced Puritan life was staggering in its own regards. The Scarlet Letter is quick to portray the religious influence of Puritanism over colonial life in New England. While earlier colonies had been settled by unorganized congregations of materialistic men, New England was populated through mass migrations which occurred predominately in family units. These family units acted as the basis of communal life, and strict adherence to moral principles was, in their belief, the glue which held society together. Hester Prynne challenged the societal norm through adultery; isolating herself from the rest of her community both figuratively and literally. She was literally outcast because...
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