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    Puritanism In American Literature Definition Essay Example

    ➤ Essay on Puritanism in American Literature ✍ The Puritans had a large influence in American literature and still influence moral judgment and religious beliefs in the United States to this day.

    Last Updated 17 Aug 2022

    Puritanism in American Literature

    Category American Literature, Christianity, God

    Words 1105 (5 pages)

    Views 2994

    The Puritans had a large influence in American literature and still influence moral judgment and religious beliefs in the United States to this day. Puritan writing was used to glorify God and to relate God more directly to our world. Puritan literature was commonly a realistic approach to life. “Puritanism as a historical phenomenon and as a living presence in American life has enriched American literature in ways far too numerous to detail here. ” (G. Perkins B. Perkins Phillip Leininger 888) Puritanism is a collection of many different religious and political beliefs. Common styles of Puritan writing are protestant, Calvinist, purposiveness, and the writings also directly reflected the character of the readers who were literate and strongly religious. Pragmaticism and both political and religious Idealism are frequently themes in Puritan literature. Puritanism thus laid the basis for Americanism. It did so on the basis not of philosophical or legal argument, but of Christian belief based on the Bible. Gelernter 25)The Calvinist ideology, which was popular in Puritanism was based off of the Five Points, which are total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the “saints. ” Total depravity is the idea that all humans are born sinful. Unconditional election means that God chooses who he wants to save and also contains the concept of predestination, which is an ideology that God damns certain individuals for the salvation of others. This also ties in with limited atonement, the ideology that Jesus only died for a selected group of individuals, not for everyone.

    The ideology of irresistible grace is that “the saving and transfiguring power of God,” cannot be either earned or denied. Perseverance of the “saints” is the ideological belief that elected individuals have the power to interpret the will of God and to live in an upright fashion. The Puritans had secular concerns as well as religious. Puritans believed in working hard, and doing selfless things to help others. Puritans also believed in typology, the belief that God's intentions are present in human action and in natural phenomenon.

    Failures to understand these intentions are human limitations. (“American Puritanism: A Brief Introduction”) In 1620, William Bradford formed the Plymouth Plantation with a group of Europeans that came with him to America. In only a year, their number of survivors decreased by half. Bradford kept a journal that chronicled the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony. Plain speech was the high literary value of this society, as expressed by William Bradford, who enjoined “a plain style, with singular regard to the simple truth in all things. ("The Influence of Puritanism on American Literature”) In this journal, he exhibited diplomacy and integrity, the ability to assure the colony’s survival, and made a contribution in avoiding potential disasters. His principles established religious freedom and self-government that later shaped American colonial government. John Winthrop wrote A Modell of Christian Charity either before he crossed into America in 1630 or along his journey to the New World. In this book, the struggles that were to be faced in the New World are discussed along with Winthrop’s ideas and plan’s to overcome them.

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    Winthrop was considered to be a contributor to the concept of American exceptionalism, the idea that the New World is unique to other countries by ideology based on laissez-faire and egalitarianism along with liberty. Winthrop has also portrayed that Puritans were neither visionaries nor self-conscious heroes. They were a part of society that believed in solid work such as building homes, trading, farming, and government. Anne Bradstreet was unique to authors of her time because her work had literary creativity and artistic merit and was written for literature.

    In contrast, works of Winthrop and Bradford were written for historical purposes and to express their positions and political beliefs on certain positions. In England in 1650, some of Bradstreet's poems compiled together by her brother-in-law who named them The Tenth Muse. The first of these poems was the Four Elements, which are fire, water, earth, and air. The Constitutions were the four temperaments of man kind as they were seen by medieval and Renaissance physiology, choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine.

    The four Ages of Man, which are child, teen, adult, and elder as Seasons of the Year which are Fall, Spring, Summer and Winter were described and explained. Bradstreet was better with her knowledge of literature rather than her own personal opinions directly. In some poems, Bradstreet displays deep affections of the patriarchal Puritan household and a sensuous response to nature. Bradstreet’s literature showed both sides of the spectrum by upholding puritan beliefs as well as creating artistic merit. The American writings of the seventeenth century possess as a whole no great artistic merit.

    They are valuable chiefly as a study in origins and as a complex mirror of early American experience. The world that they reflect is that of the Renaissance and Reformation, of Raleigh and Calvin and Cromwell, modified by its contact with the American wilderness. ("American Literature Lectures, Part I") They are valuable in the sense as it is a study in origins of popular religious and political ideology of the early American experience that helped shape present day America. This experience was one that reflected the Renaissance and Reformation of individuals such as Calvin and Bradstreet.

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    Write A Critical Note On The Ideology Of Puritanism Reflected In American Literature

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    Write a critical note on the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American literature.Introduction

    Puritan literature is a genre created by the Puritans, a religious movement which fought to remove the remnants of the Catholic Church from the Church of England. This led to conflict in England and to the founding of several colonies in the Americas, including settlements in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and other parts of New England. The movement began in 1530 and lasted well into the 17th century. Religion was the central tenet of Puritan life. The movement began as a way to reform the Church of England, and its practitioners believed in creating a covenant with God and being humble. Their communities were governed by religious doctrine, a concept which clashed with the emerging modernity of science and reason. For example, during the Salem Witch Trials, a famous Puritan and author named Cotton Mather urged the court to not simply accept hearsay as evidence for the charge of witchcraft and instead rely on hard evidence. Puritan literature is the result of this movement and lifestyle. Much of it is in the form of letters and journals written by Puritans regarding their experiences. Puritan writing is primarily made up of sermons, poetry, and historical narratives, but Puritan writers created very little fiction. Much like their lifestyles, Puritans used simple, straightforward sentences when writing.

    Puritan Authors

    Puritan authors preferred to write in first person and in as plain a style as possible. While they believed in sharing their experiences and beliefs, they also wanted to avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves, hence the simple style which contrasted the more elaborate style popular in Europe. Writing was a major part of their lives, and even simple letters were treated

    as though they were instructive. Puritans did not believe literature was meant for entertainment. Major Puritan writers produced works that have also become major works appreciated as literature and not just religious writings. This, of course, is highly ironic, as the idea of famous Puritans is antithetical for the concept of not drawing attention to oneself.

    Colonial times in America

    The man sometimes called the first American writer was Capt. John Smith. He was a soldieradventurer who came to Virginia in 1607 and wrote pamphlets describing the new land. His first, A True Relation of Virginia (1608), aimed at attracting settlers and winning financial support for the colony. His General History of Virginia (1624) elaborates on his experiences. In it he tells how his life was saved by Pocahontas. Smith was an able leader and an interesting reporter. His books are valued because he was the first person to write about the English settlements. the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American literature. Colonial life in Virginia was best described by William Byrd, owner of Westover, an estate of almost 180,000 acres (73,000 hectares) on the James River. The beautiful house is a showplace today. Educated in England, Byrd returned home to lead the life of a country gentleman. He worked hard managing his affairs. His most notable public act was to survey the boundary between Virginia and Carolina, fighting his way through the great Dismal Swamp. He described this adventure of 1728–29 in History of the Dividing Line, published in 1841. He told, often amusingly, of settlement life in the backcountry. Byrd’s Secret Diary, discovered in 1940, gives intimate glimpses of colonial times and helps bring to life this refined and witty colonial gentleman. the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American literature.

    The influence of puritanism

    For more than 100 years after the Pilgrim landing in 1620, life and writing in New England were dominated by the religious attitude known as Puritanism. To understand colonial life and literature one must understand Puritanism, one of the major influences in American life. the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American literature.

    The early settlers in New England were Protestants. England had become a Protestant country when Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic church. Some Englishmen, however, felt that the break was not complete. They wanted to “purify” the church of Catholic features; they were therefore known as Puritans. Another group, the Separatists, wanted to separate, or break away entirely, from the Church of England. These were the Pilgrims. Both groups came to the New World in order to worship God in their own way and to escape persecution by English authorities. They felt they had a divine mission to fulfill. It was the will of God, they believed, that they establish a religious society in the wilderness. This belief must have helped them endure the hard life they faced as colonists. the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American literature. In the Puritan view, God was supreme. The Puritans held that He revealed His will through the Bible, which they believed literally. Clergymen interpreted the Bible in sermons, but each man and woman was obliged to study it for himself too. The people had to be educated in order to read the Bible, to discuss it, and to write about it. Harvard College was founded in 1636 partly to meet this demand for an educated populace. Other colleges and public schools followed. Indeed, the intellectual quality of New England life, which later influenced other parts of the country, is traceable to the Puritans’ need for a trained and literate population.

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    Write a critical note on the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American Literature.(500 words)

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    Literature Write a critical note on the ideology of Puritanism reflected in American Literature.(500 words)

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    The term Puritanism has implications involving both religion and politics and is applicable to literature in both a positive and negative way, sometimes within the body of work of the same writer.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne's fiction is a kind of re-imagining of the early colonial period two hundred years before his own time. The extreme religious domination of early New England is viewed by Hawthorne as a hugely negative force that stifles people's individuality and freedom but paradoxically spurs them on in a violent struggle against that force, without which they would not have been able to demonstrate their character and invincibility. I see both Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter as illustrations of this, as victims who simultaneously transcend their victimhood and become heroes. The political aspect of Puritanism, elsewhere in Hawthorne, is seen positively as an archetype of the American spirit of individualism. In the short story "Endicott and the Red Cross," Endicott's gesture of tearing in half the flag with the cross that represents the English monarchy symbolizes a kind of pre-existent form of the independence movement that would take place 130 years later. But the moderating presence of Roger Williams in the tale is a warning against fanaticism. It is also ironic that the religiously extreme Puritans would destroy a cross in any form, regardless of its connection to the hated Stuart house.

    Thoreau's writings, both "On Civil Disobedience" and Walden, and their focus on man's individualism and defiance of authority, are further examples of the Puritan legacy, in spite of Thoreau's secular orientation, like Hawthorne's—so is Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance." In nineteenth-century America, religion was used both as a justification of slavery as well as a basis for abolition. The prime exponent in literature of the latter is Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe came from a strongly Calvinist family. Calvinism, of course, is the branch of Protestantism to which the Puritans adhered.

    Even Edgar Allan Poe, though there is little if any direct expression of religious thought in his work, can be seen as connected to the Puritan legacy in his exploration of the darker side of human nature. Poe sees humanity as crushed by its own sinfulness. Herman Melville's writings similarly are examinations of obsession and fanaticism. Although, like Poe and Hawthorne, Melville was not religious in the traditional sense, one would not think works like Moby Dick or Bartleby would have been possible without the background of Puritanism, which affected so much of America, at least indirectly.



    Certainly, a critical and short note on such a topic can encompass a book or two.  It should be noted that what is generated here is meant to serve as a potential starting point of further research and thought.  The Puritanical search for purity and its intolerance for anything short of it helps to leave a significant mark on American Literature.  The notion of being born into original sin, and yet striving for spiritual perfection and complete affirmation and absolution from the creator when it is known that this is impossible helped to bring the gap between what is and what will never be into American thought and literature.  The idea of being able to set oneself up for a fruitless spiritual quest was an element that was brought out in Puritan times and one manipulated into other works of American Literature.  Miller, himself, played with this theme in his plays, "The Crucible," where spiritual perfection ended up serving as a pretense for political and moral manipulation, and "Death of a Salesman," where the pursuit of an illusory American Dream predicated on wealth ends in a failure.  There are other examples of this Puritanical streak of setting oneself up for failure in being measured against an impossible standard.

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