Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" captivates the reader through a glimpse of the Puritan church. The story also shows the struggle of good versus evil in the main character Goodman Brown. The role of the Puritan church is crucial in shaping Goodman Brown's personality and helping the reader understand why he was reluctant to continue his journey.
"Puritanism, movement arising within the Church of England in the latter part of the 16th century that sought to purify or reform, that church and establish a middle course between Roman Catholicism and the ideas of the Protestant reformers" (Puritanism 1). The term Puritanism was referred to as an insult that was attached by traditional Anglicans who wished to purify the Church of England. The Encarta Online Encyclopedia states that the term Puritanism has often been used as a term of abuse in a way that does little justice to historical Puritanism. For instance, when a rigid moralism, the condemnation of innocent pleasure, or a religious narrowness is characterized as Puritanical (1). Puritanism was founded on the principles and beliefs of John Calvin, and one of the major ideals they focused on was the doctrine of predestination. Calvin believed that the grace of God was the ticket into Heaven and that his grace could not be earned. God's grace was bestowed upon a select few regardless of what they did to earn it. This doctrine stated that God determines a man's destiny, whether it be redemption or condemnation, regardless of any worth or merit on the person's part.
Great pains were taken to warn members and especially children of the dangers of the world. Religiously motivated, they were exceptional in their time for their interest in the education of their children. Reading the Bible was necessary to giving the righteous life. Three diversions were banned in the Puritan society: drama, religious music, and erotic poetry. They believed that these led to immorality. Music in worship created a dreamy state which was not conducive to listening to God.
Each Puritan congregation was to be individually responsible to God, as was each person. The New Testament was their model, and their devotion so great that permeated their entire society. People opposing theological views were asked to leave the community or to be converted. Their interpretation of scriptures was a harsh one. They emphasized a redemptive pity. In principle, they emphasized conversion and not repression. Conversion was a rejection of the worldliness of society combined with a strict adherence to Biblical principles.
Puritans believed that a strong faith in Jesus and active participation in the sacraments could not alone hinder one's salvation. No one can choose salvation, for it is the privilege of God alone (Campbell 1). The Puritan society centered around the idea of covenants. The concept of the contract between God and a select few was central to Puritan theology and social relationships (2). Campbell explains that the "Covenant of Works held that God promised Adam and his progeny eternal life if they obeyed moral law. After Adam broke this covenant, God made a new Covenant of Grace with Abraham"(2). The Covenant of Grace requires active faith and, as such, it softens the doctrine of predestination. Campbell further explains that, "Although God still chooses the elect, the relationship becomes one of contract in which punishment for sins is a judicially proper response to disobedience"(2).The Covenant of Redemption goes hand and hand with the Covenant of Grace. It states that Christ of his own free will chose to sacrifice his life for the common man. Then God was committed to carrying out the Covenant of Grace.
The doctrine of predestination kept all Puritans constantly working to do good in this life to be chosen for the next eternal life. God had already chosen who would be in Heaven or Hell, and each believer had no way of knowing which group one was in. Those who were wealthy were...
Cited: Campbell, Donna M. "Puritanism in New England." Literary Movements (2002).Hill
Center Lab, Kentucky State University. 1 July 2002. http://www.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campbell/en1310/purdef.html
Dudley. William, and Teresa O 'Neill, Eds. Puritanism: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc. 1994.
Feldmeth, Greg D. "US History Resources". 29 June 2002. http://home.earthlink.net/~gfeldmeth/USHistory.html
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown". Literature and the Writing Process. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2002.
"Puritanism". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia Deluxe (2002). Internet Explorer. 1 July 2002. Keyword: Puritanism.
Wilson, John F. "Puritans". Discovery Channel School.2002. World Book Online. 29 June 2002.http://www.discovery school.com/homeworkhelp/worldbook/atozhisotry/p1452140.html
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