Puritan Culture In The Scarlet Letter

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The Scarlet Letter and Uses of the Puritan Past illustrate various aspects of the cultural values in Puritanism and their societal impacts. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne depicts Puritanism as a bleak, strict cultural instance in which people who do not conform to their rules are shunned and distanced from society. In Uses of the Puritan Past, Puritan culture is described as a social construct based on four primary virtues. These virtues were the main influence of Puritan activity in Uses of the Puritan Past, as they were responsible for the creation of social rules and essential morality resulting in increased power and influence of the Puritan over every day Puritan life in New England. Even though both The Scarlet Letter and Uses of the…show more content…
In the novel, Hester, a young woman involved in adultery after leaving her husband in Europe, is at the center of ridicule and exclusion from the rest of the Puritan community due to her actions. This ideology of community over the individual is prevalent throughout the book, and it has far-reaching effects on not only Hester but her daughter Pearl as well. One of the key forces behind the societal exclusion in The Scarlet Letter is the Puritan ministry. As one of the most powerful groups in New England in the 17th century, they exerted a large presence in local governments. According to Hall’s A Reforming People, Puritan presence in the government came suddenly along with the influx of colonists to New England: “Bringing with them a deep fear of arbitrary, unlimited authority, these settlers based their churches on the participation of laypeople and insisted on "consent" as a premise of all civil governance. Puritans also transformed civil and criminal law and the workings of courts with the intention of establishing equity.” (Hall). The ministry’s role in government is best described by their authoritative stance in deciding Hester’s custody over Pearl, which was only halted when another member of the ministry contradicted their overall stance. They were also involved in banishing Hester and Pearl from the community by…show more content…
Essentially, Puritans are expected to follow a strict set of religious and moral guidelines from which their actions and morality are derived. According to Hall’s A Reforming People, these moral expectations first introduced by the pilgrims were the driving force behind the power that the Puritan ministry had over society: “Ministers and laypeople looked first to congregations as the place where love, mutuality, and righteousness would flourish, and second to civil society. …Alongside love, mutuality, and righteousness they placed another set of values summed up in the word “equity.” Employed in a broad array of contexts, the concept of equity conveyed the colonists’ hopes for justice and fairness in their social world.” (Hall, 127). This idea of a fair and just society was the centerpiece of Puritan society, and it subsequently led to the virtue of community over the individual which was previously discussed. When it comes to The Scarlet Letter, the ideology that Puritan morality is fundamental to everything is truly front and center. Hester’s struggle due to her past sin is a perfect example of this; The ministry attempted to purify and protect the community by excluding Hester from societal affairs, even going as far as attempting to strip Hester of her custody of Pearl. Overall, Hester’s forced
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