The Scarlet Letter: The Puritan Colonies In America

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The Puritan colonies in America were characterized by rigid standards in both the church and state. They had to be harsh and possess perseverance in order to survive in the New World. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter has preserved in literature a certain perspective as to the harsh Puritan judgement and lives we believed them to have lived. While Hawthorne includes historical details and settings in his book, he does take liberties in his fictional story of the justice system and punishments used by the Puritans.
The Puritan colonies in New England were characterized by a church centered society. In England, the Puritan Christians desired to purify the Church of England. They did not agree with how the church system seemed corrupted by Catholic values and theology. Following the lead of John Calvin, the Puritans believed in the
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The Puritans continued to have the mindset of a purified community and this showed in their harsh, judicial methods. They resorted to many punishments that would be considered cruel and unusual today, and people were punished for seemingly small things. Letters of shame, branding and maiming, and using cleft sticks were all common modes of punishment in order to keep the people in order (Anon, para 3). The Scarlet Letter has made famous the knowledge of using a letter of A to show that someone who has committed adultery. Other letters were used, such as the letter ‘B’ for blasphemy. One lady in 1656 was sentenced to be whipped and forever have the letter ‘B’ stitched onto her clothing (Anon, para 7). A man named William Bacon, in 1633, was sentenced to spend an hour on the pillory wearing the letter ‘D’ for drunkenness (Anon, para 7). Clefts sticks, another form of punishment used on liars and slanderers. A stick split at the end was put on their tongues while one had to stand in
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