Forum of Hidden Truth

Dictated and governed by a set of religious laws, Puritan society restricted those who lived within its limits to mundane, ordinary lives. The theocratic based community was forced to live under the harsh, and often strict, guidelines of the Puritan church. Any one sin could be punished severely, whether it is a minor infraction or an offense condemnable by death. A person could not speak out or show any emotion lest they were willing to face the consequences of their seemingly legitimate actions- creating a society where outward and inner truth could not, and therefore, did not, exist.

These brutal living conditions enforced by the Puritan community are depicted in the nineteenth century novel The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne uses a myriad of motifs to provide an insightful look into the harsh society. The scaffold, the most prominent motif in the novel, reflects the characters innermost thoughts and feelings to their fellow townspeople, and proves to be the only place in the Boston community in which unbridled- and often brutal- honesty can be found.

Hawthorne uses the scaffold as a tool through which he demonstrates the public revelation of one’s sins. Public penitence upon the scaffold was the only way society would acknowledge, and later forgive one for their sins. It is the first step on the long road to acceptance back into the strict, Puritan society. In the first of three scaffold scenes, Hester stands before the community, wearing a scarlet A.

For her punishment, she was required to stand for hours upon the scaffold, and the truth pertaining to her sin of adultery and her inner struggle were put on display, ‘…for, haughty as her demeanor was, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon’; (52). Already carrying the heavy burden of her guilt, Hester was forced to stand before her fellow townspeople to endure further suffering, causing unbearable anguish within her.

She was publicly acknowledging the fact that she had sinned against God, as well as against her community, causing shame to engulf every fiber of her being. Hester was admitting the dishonorable truth, which took time for even her to accept, to those she encountered everyday. The scaffold was the only place within the strict, theocratic society that she could reveal the harsh truth of her sin, and in turn, was the only place Hester could attain forgiveness for her wrongdoing.

Although the scaffold serves as a forum for public revelation and acceptance, it provides a sanctuary of personal truth as well. Upon its framework, a person may act freely as they wish, letting their desires and wishes become a reality. They are not shackled by the pressures of their lifestyle, and therefore may truly be themselves. In the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale climbs the wooden steps and is joined by Hester and the product of their sin, Pearl. Putting aside their daily facades, they join hands to form an ‘electric chain.

As ‘they stood in the noon of that strange and solemn splendor, as if it were the light that is to reveal all secrets, and the daybreak that shall unite all who belong to one another’; (142), they could finally be together, as one. They let their inner-truths, that could not be displayed anywhere but on the scaffold, be revealed to themselves, as well as to each other. Each one of them carried some sort of sin, preventing them from achieving their ultimate goal- to be together. In addition, it is upon the scaffold that Pearl realizes the intimate bond between herself and Dimmesdale.

This personal revelation of truth could not have been uncovered with the absence of the scaffold. Ultimately, the scaffold not only revealed the truth without, but also within. In the final scaffold scene, Hawthorne intertwines the two previous revelations of truth into one. A person may reveal a hidden truth publicly, and at the same time reveal it to themselves, thus lifting the burden of the sin from their conscience. These two disclosures are in direct relation to the scaffold, for this is the only place within Puritan society in which the true essence of a person may be exposed.

Dimnmesdale is able to break the barriers placed upon him as the result of his sin as he climbs upon the scaffold to confess his secret to all, and: ‘For an instant, the gaze of the horror-stricken multitude was concentrated on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood, with a flush of triumph in his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had one a victory. Then, down he sank, upon the scaffold! ‘; (232) Dimmesdale’s confession of his act of treacherous sin freed him from the restraints, which had held him back for so long.

Now, finally, his soul could be laid to rest, no longer forced to endure the torment that had torn him apart for many years. As his unexpected testimony shocked the spectators, Dimmesdale found something he had long forgotten- peace. The truth of his sin, and his ability to finally disclose it to the community he had sworn to uphold, set him free. And only through the presence of the scaffold, was public, as well as personal, revelation able to take place. The scaffold serves as the main focus of the novel around which the major events revolve.

It serves as a forum for public and personal revelation, while exposing the inner truths and desires of the characters that stand upon it. Not only does it provide the basis for these actions, but serves as the only place where the people of the community accept, and later forgive the sins and wrongdoings of the offenders. The scaffold is the most prominent motif in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, for the significant events that occur upon it lay the groundwork upon which the novel is constructed. Ultimately, no truths would have been uncovered without the presence of the scaffold, leaving a literary masterpiece in shambles.

What is the meaning of puritanism in American history

Puritanism is one of the most important aspects of the American culture. Many of this country’s beliefs come from puritanism background. What is Puritanism and the meaning of it in American history? Puritanism is a term that originates from the religious group called the Puritans. They were a denomination formed by the great Protestant Reformation in Europe. They were known as nonconformists and dissenters because of their refusal to submit to the Church of England. Because of this, the Puritans and their theology soon died out in Europe.

However, the puritan ideas and beliefs flourished in the New World. Puritanism starts with the theology of the Puritans. First they believed in the sovereignty of God. That is, only God had the highest power or rank. This meant that a man did not have the power to hold authority over other men. In essence, this belief coincides with the concept of the divine nature of kings. The English monarchy wanted its people to believe that the king was appointed by God Himself. Therefore, the king was responsible only to God.

The first concept of Puritanism states that all Christian men are responsible only to God. Another concept of puritanism and probably the most important is the idea of Salvation by Grace. In Puritan theology, God created mankind and cosmos. He gave mankind a beautiful garden to live, the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, mankind committed sin and was banished. However God, sent His grace to mankind. He gave His people salvation and therefore they were able to live by faith. Out of this belief, came the Covenant of Grace.

A covenant is an important agreement or promise. The Covenant of Grace states that God approached mankind, not the other way around and all mankind had to do was accept this covenant of grace. This allowed mankind, as sinful as they were, the chance to return to God. The Puritans perceived their coming to America as God’s grace. They viewed their life in England, with all of the persecution and hardship, as a kind of banishment from Eden by God. America was a wilderness to the puritans.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness and wandered for forty years before reaching Canaan, the Promised Land. The New World was, at the same time, the Wilderness and the Garden of Eden. It was uninhabited (at least in their view), pristine, and beautiful. Having created this concept of the Covenant and the sovereignty of God, the Puritans believed that everything they did was for the will of God. This meant that they could take over the land of the Indians and exploit these “heathen”.

And they did. In 1636, Puritans in Massachusetts massacred hundreds of Pequot Indians in what they called “a sweet sacrifice. ” The concept of puritanism did not end with the Puritan community. As they joined the rest of the other English colonies, many of the puritanism beliefs permeated into society. As we look back in history, we can see how this has affected the history of America. During each period in time, the United States has felt that they had a special mission. This special mission can be interpreted as the will of God.

The Puritans thought that anything they did was for God’s will and that God’s will was their mission. During the colonial times, the mission was to gain independence from tyrannical England. After that, the mission was to give African slaves their freedom. Then, there was the westward movement to expand land. During the 20th century, the United States fought to protect the world from the Axis, the Communists, and the Iraqis. In each case, America has always had this special mission which they fulfilled sometimes using questionable methods.

We can see how puritanism relates to the beliefs of America by studying the history of America. And we can see the prominent role puritanism has played to American society. Just look at the remnants of the Indian culture. Using the name of God, the Americans stole their land, wiped out their people, and destroyed their culture. Perhaps the sovereignty of God isn’t such a good idea after all. It seems as though with no authority to answer to except God, America was able to do almost anything and state that it was for the “greater good. ”

Working – An American Necessity

During the birth of this country, Puritans had to work hard to ensure the success of the new state. In order to make work more appealing, the Puritans emphasized the fruits of labor. This attitude, reflected in modern day by the act of “working for a living,” is considered as a “badge of pride. ” Puritan attitudes toward work and the attitudes of two modern day writers toward work all agree that the act of working has virtuous effects, an attitude that I share because of my working experience (Clee and Clee 233-234).

Three different attitudes toward work, expressed by several writers whom I have recently studied agree that hard work yields positive rewards. Henry F. Bedford, a history teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, and Trevor Colbourne, a teacher at the University of New Hampshire, examine the Puritan attitude toward work in their book The Americans: A Brief History. Puritans stress the goodness of working by relating it to religious beliefs. Sloth is sinful, but the Puritans also pointed out that it was self-defeating. Leisure is even considered an “evil temptation” (Bedford and Colbourne 235-238).

Marge Piercy, a modern day poet, essayist, and novelist, attempts to explain why work is desirable on contemporary terms in her poem “To Be of Use. ” To Piercy, hard workers who really persevere are admirable because of the fact that the world is full of temptations to stop working, or to not work altogether. This admiration for determination is apparent because work is as “common as mud,” and it must be done sometime (Piercy 242-243). Wendell Berry, an English teacher at the University of Kentucky, explains the basis of the desire to work in his essay “The Joy of Work.

In response to the prediction that there will be no work in the future, Berry emphasizes the importance of work to human nature. He explains that people do work because of “fellow feeling,” and that people get satisfaction from doing work (Berry 244-247). The concept of satisfaction as a product of hard work has been proven valid to me through my years of experience. All of these selections agree that work is a basic part of life: without it, one would have a void in his life where satisfaction would be. Success of humanity depends on work.

Puritan Lifestyle, Ethics and Contributions in the Development of the United States

Puritans were a group of people who believed in Puritanism, a movement to purify the Church of England, started in the 16th century. The purpose of this movement was to simply cleanse the Anglican Church, which they believed was going in the wrong direction. When the number of Puritans starts to increase, they were persecuted in England and many moved away from the country to settle elsewhere in Europe. Later on when the new colonies were being established in the Americas, many Puritans moved from Europe to settle in the continent. In 1629 a colony was founded in the New World called Massachusetts Bay by Puritans.

However, the influence of Puritanism didnt decline from Europe until 17th and 18th century. Besides religious influence, there were many other contributions that were made by the Puritans, such as the development of town meetings, stress on the value education, and enhancement on farming, however, they have failed to maintain their status and influence in the world today. Puritans had a variety of beliefs and many were considered as rules and laws in Puritan colonies. They believed in the total corruption of humans at the point they are born, which is the concept of original sin.

Unconditional Election was also an idea believed by Puritans, which basically means God saves those who he wishes, the concept of predestination. The also believed in Irresistible Grace, which means that whoever God is pleased with, obtains the grace, and in Perseverance of the saints, which signifies that those who are elected by God have the power or permission to interpret His will. Many Puritan writers were very much influenced by their religious studies and many writers tried to make God more relevant to the world and tried to transform His mysteriousness into simplicity that the people could easily understand.

John Winthrop, a Puritan leader started establishing a new colony in 1629 with a thousand Puritan settlers. This colony was situated in Massachusetts and the town was called Salem. Two hundred people died during the winter and another two hundred returned to England in the same year. However, within the next ten years there were almost twenty thousand people living in the colony. From 1640 the colony was on its own without any help from the English authorities and after nine years from when Winthrop died, many new towns in the colony were still being established.

They built great towns like Lexington, Concord, Cambridge, and many others which were considered great Puritan settlements at that time. The Puritans mostly created self-governing communities and their laws insisted on individual liberties. People of higher social standard usually obtained large portions of land compared to the majority of other people in the colonies. Puritans fathers or husbands were considered the main rescuer of the family. They made most of the family decisions and represented their family in the society.

Fathers passed their authority to their sons. In Puritan homes there was generally an hour of discussion between the members of the family, usually on the Puritan religion and beliefs. Families in the society were also investigated by the Puritan magistrates, to maintain order in the colony. There was also a strong regulation of the Puritan work ethic. In the town every one had to work, many middle class people were usually farmers. Every family had to provide a representative of theirs in the society to discuss the main problems in the town meetings.

In a town over a hundred families there had to be a public school for children. There was also a rule in some societies to recite the Bible everyday. Puritans were very keen on religious education and discussions. Although there was a general freedom for the people, Puritan societies did not want to create unwanted problems. Puritan ministers also had a great authority over the towns people. As far as education is concerned Puritans were way advanced compared to other New England colonies. Many Puritans were well educated, and made a great contribution in the development of their societies.

Puritans are also credited for the establishment of the Harvard University in 1636, which was very quick enhancement for a colony which was founded in 1629. The main purpose of the universities was to train ministers, who could vote and hold office in various towns of the colony. Many new laws were also passed associated with the university like the School Law in 1647, which state that in a town over hundred families children should know how to read and write and each child should learn how to read and analyze the Bible. Another law passed in 1647 was the Education Law. Town meetings played a major role in the society.

Puritan ministers and church leaders had a great authority on these meetings. They were held almost every day to discuss the issues of the day. The issues could be about anything, family affairs, religious studies, or farming problems. Every male had a right to attend town meetings, but only ministers and church leaders had the right to vote. Sometimes when the problem was very crucial, almost everyone in the town was invited to attend and it was a kind of an assembly in which new announcements were made and new laws were passed. This kind of institution could be considered very similar to the constitutions we have in the world today.

Puritan literature was a very influential aspect of the lives of many Puritans. It affected their jobs, clothes, food, and several other things. There were many kinds of Puritan literature; the most common being the writings on Biblical teachings that were written by church leaders. Although the Puritans were famous for their writings in horror, at that time many books were written on the issues that were created out of the teachings of Bible. The most famous author of that time was Jonathan Edwards. He wrote books like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which was a bestseller.

Another influential form of writing at that time was about history. Many writers wrote about their ancestry and the establishment of colonies. The books like Bradfords History of Plymouth Plantation, were very famous. Poetry was also an adored form of literature, writers like Anna Bradstreet and Edward Taylor helped in the enhancement of poems. The first book of poems in the New England colonies was written by Anna Bradstreet known as Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America. There were also many problems in the Puritan society. One of the biggest issues was the separation of state and church.

In the early 1600s many Puritans tried to bring religion into the state affairs, but later on these issues were resolved as many Puritan leaders established their colonies with the rule of separation of state and church and then this movement influenced many other colonies. Another main problem in the Puritan society is the problem of witch trials. In the late 16th century many young females were accused of witchcraft and many were hung. These trials took place in the city of Salem in Massachusetts. It was a chaos in the city because of these trials, crops were rotting and cows were roaming on streets as their owners were hung in the process.

This issue created a fuss in societies and it was a challenge for many Puritan ministers to handle such cases. In the late 1800s the influence of Puritanism started to decline. People were not as religious as their ancestors and many became more practical in the world and did not give much importance to the Bible, as they used to. This attitude of Puritans was influenced by several things. Such as, many Puritans didnt rely on God that much, the presence of Quakers and Anabaptists changed the Puritan thinking as they introduced their new customs and lifestyles in the society and many Puritans were impressed.

Church laws were violated more often and no one even cared about it because people were losing faith in God. As a result of the witch trials people were so depressed with the innocent deaths that their faith in God became weaker and colonies decided to separate the laws of the church and the laws of the government. Family governing was also becoming unpopular. The sins of sex and alcohol increased as there were no strict laws to stop these practices. Laboring also became uncommon, and societies were greatly lacking proper behaviors.

All these things add up to the decline of Puritanism in the New World. In fact, many Puritans became Congregationalists. The basic belief of Congregationalists was in the practice of baptism. The word Congregationalists means independent and this group became significant in the late seventeenth century. These people were the dissenters of the Victorian society. The group started with 229 local churches in the New World to over three thousand by 1851 in Europe and in America. Congregationalists trust the concept of individual liberty and most of them do not prefer to live in societies, but alone.

Congregationalists were actually settled in England but their influence spread to the New World and it became a populous group. Puritans were an influential group in the New World and their presence created several important things that America consists of today. Puritans did a great job making their religion an influential one in the New World. They have made a great contribution in the development of democracy by introducing institutions like town meetings and documents like constitutions.

They have also influenced the education of today by creating such laws and universities in their colonies like Harvard, which is still famous today. They have been self dependent and had done well in organizing and maintaining their societies even in severe situations. Although this group had a very strong belief in God and Bible, they were unable to pass this strong sense of faith to their children and that is why they are not as famous and influential now as they used to be in the 17th and 18th century.

The House of the Seven Gables: The Dark Side of Hawthorne

In The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne exhibits the fate of a family due to a curse by analyzing the most “disagreeable” secrets of a man’s soul (Great Lives 1077). Hawthorne shows the decay of an aristocratic family due to the sins of the past. He uses allegory within his character’s personalities and emotions to expose “the truth of the human heart” (biography). Hawthorne’s chosen location for this novel reflects greatly on his life and specifically his childhood.

Salem is the home of The House of the Seven Gables. Ironically this is the same town in which he was born in and lived in through adulthood. He was raised in this town, therefore he was very aware of the dark side of its past. He was a part of this past through his ancestors. One of which was a judge in the infamous Salem witch trials. At this trial Hawthorne’s uncle is cursed by a so-called witch with the words, “God will give you blood to drink” (Magill 2736). This curse is much similar to Matthew Maule’s curse on the Pyncheon family (Magill 2734).

The solitude of his characters reflects his childhood as well. Growing up, his mother kept herself away from people which led him to become a very solitary man for much of his life. As a young child Hawthorne was lamed. During these years he became well learned with the writings of Edmund Spenser, John Bunyan, and William Shakespear(CSLF 1570). From these men he has Having lived in Salem most of his life, Hawthorne is extremely influenced by Puritanism. His writings greatly reflect this. Hawthorne deals much with the sins of a man being pasted down for generations. This is very much a Puritan belief. Puritans are a very superstitious type of person. Thus, this explains Hawthorne’s belief that a curse, such as Maule’s curse, can destroy a well-to-do family (Walker 1577).

Hawthorne’s characters dealt with guilt forced on by their ancestor, much of which goes back as far as the Puritans. He commonly plays guilt against innocence within one character, Hepzibah Pyncheon. She feels strongly that she must maintain the lifestyle and tradition of her ancestor Colonel Pyncheon. He shows her many personalities as a demonstration of the “secret motivations” of the heart (biography). Hepzibah is chained to the curse by her Puritan ancestors therefore her efforts to escape are often doomed. When she no longer has the money to fight the destruction of her blood line she turns to the shop of the past for survival.

The style with which Hawthorne portrays this character among others is very superstitious, and they deal much with the evil side of a human being. He often uses a man’s battle with sin and the devil as a source of controversy (Great Lives 1077). The Puritan background instilled in him the reality of the devil and the evil of sinning. In characters such as Hepzibah he uses evil and pain as a game (Encyclopedia of World Biography 214). She spends her life trying to escape from the dreaded Maule’s curse which makes her suffer in the isolation she has received as a punishment. Hawthorne emphasizes the imperfection of man often (Encyclopedia of World Biography).

None of his character are completely good. They all have evil thoughts at one time or another. His characters must deal with the dividing line between what is real and what is imaginary (Great Lives 1077). He focuses on the point that the “truth of the human heart” cannot be found by any earthly source. Thus, Hepzibah’s changing personalities display this question of whom a person really is. Are they good or evil? Are their actions black or white? This leads into Hawthorne’s Transcendentalist beliefs. In the time Hawthorne is writing a movement known as transcendentalism was affecting literature and art. Hawthorne is known as a dark transcendentalist because he focuses strongly on the dark and sinful side of human kind. In The House of the Seven Gables, he focuses on the self- examination of character which is a significant idea in transcendentalism (Encarta Encyclopedia).

He believes a human cannot reach the insights of transcendentalism by mere sensual experience. They must reach a new level of understanding. This is similar to Hepzibah inability to understand Clifford reason and state of mind. He has been alone many years away from daily sin and the darkness of the evil within the house. It also relates to Hepzibah’s inability to understand her emotion until Phoebe comes into the picture. Phoebe helps her to see the light and that not everything is dark and gloomy. However, Hepzibah still has to fight a battle with the side of her that wants to remain hidden and entrapped by the curse of Old Maule. Transcendentalists speak of the “divine and supernatural light” (gonzaga 1).

The House of the Seven Gables is haunted with the supernatural and it takes a higher understanding to break the chains of the curse, Hawthorne places the light against the dark with Hepzibah the dark, and Phoebe the light. Hepzibah’s darkness always out powers Phoebe’s happiness without intension. The darkness signifies the imperfection of man that transcendentalists Hawthorne’s feelings on life alone create the base of misfortune whether by curse or desire. His writing is often allegorical and moralistic when dealing with the life of his characters. They fight moral issues, many dealing with the loss and possession of money. His characters live a very isolated life much like his own.

In The House of the Seven Gables loneliness is the punishment Hepzibah pays for the sin of the Colonel. The pain in the character’s lives comes from this isolation, however when they try to live among the people they retreat back into their holes. (WLC 1597). Hawthorne was identical to this until he met his wife Sophia. His characters’ pride is the source of their evil. They fight to hold the lives they lead without the consideration to modern times. Their lives come into moral Hawthorne’s transcendentalist views of humanity and his belief in the devil result in the evil side to his characters. The curse put upon them from generations back plagues them in modern time due to their refusal to move on. Their personalities portray “the truth of the human heart”