- Term Papers and Free Essays

Scarlett Letter

Essay by   •  November 30, 2010  •  1,566 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,154 Views

Essay Preview: Scarlett Letter

Report this essay
Page 1 of 7

In life, one may see that there are not many guarantees. However, the closest one may come to a guarantee is that almost anything in life can change. I believe that change can come in many forms. For instance, change can be a very easy and smooth transition that in the end is a positive thing. Then again there is change that can be tough, and quite difficult to deal with which often is labeled as a negative thing. However, the most significant type of change is one that makes an immediate impact on oneÐŽ¦s existence and, in the end, shapes the way things are done now and well into the future. In the case of Nathaniel HawthorneÐŽ¦s The Scarlet Letter, transformations can be seen in several parts of the novel. Specifically, Hawthorne changes the typical way Puritans are portrayed. The Puritan people and their beliefs were used in several texts throughout the history of American Literature. The changes that Hawthorne incorporated into his novel whether labeled as good or bad are the reason why I believe The Scarlet Letter fits into a renaissance period in American Literature.

Puritanism has its roots in the 16th and 17th century as a movement for reform in the Church of England. It had an insightful sway on the social, political, and ethical ideas in England and, subsequently, in America. The Puritan people had many beliefs that were depicted to the fullest in early American Literature. Puritans first believed in the concept of original sin in which all humans were born sinful. Puritans also adhered to the theory of unconditional election or predestination, which was the belief that God saves those he wishes and that few are selected for salvation. Another important aspect to Puritan beliefs was that everything was done as a united community. They stressed the importance of the group rather than the individual. This belief applied to everything from their possessions to their well beings. Puritans felt as long as they had GodÐŽ¦s love than that was all they ever needed. Most importantly, however, was the goal of the early Puritans, such as Thomas Cartwright, was to purify the church not to separate from it. Early American Literature writers such as William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet used all of these beliefs to portray Puritans in their works.

The primary function of Puritan writing such as that of William Bradford was to transform God from being such a mysterious being. The Puritans felt God was separate from their world and they didnÐŽ¦t really know Him. Bradford also wrote to make God more relevant to the universe and to glorify him to the readers. In BradfordÐŽ¦s Puritan writing, he consistently portrayed two common themes. These themes were political and religious idealism and pragmatism. In BradfordÐŽ¦s Of Plymouth Plantation, the Puritan people are illustrated with all of their beliefs. The Puritans were generous people who followed the laws of God but not in a strict and punishing way. While Bradford and his followers were trying to settle into their land, they were on many occasions confronted by adversity from others as well as by troubling conditions brought on by their environment. However, BradfordÐŽ¦s followers as written were shown to stand together as a community. They used their Puritan belief that as long as they stood united that God would take care of them according to his divine plan. While enduring these troubling times, BradfordÐŽ¦s Puritans remained peaceful and holy not causing any uproars or dilemmas.

Like William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet also portrayed the basic ÐŽ§everydayЎЁ examples of Puritans in her poems. In her poem Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, Bradstreet describes how she dealt with her house burning down according to Puritan standards. In the poem it states, ÐŽ§And to my God my heart did cry to strengthen me in my distress and not to leave me succorless. Then, coming out, beheld a space the flame consume my dwelling place. And when I could no longer look, I blest his name that gave and took, that laid my goods now in the dust.ЎЁ In this example, Bradstreet portrays the Puritan belief that individual possessions mean very little and that her belief in predestination and GodÐŽ¦s original plan for salvation will ease her pain in this troubling time. In the poem it also states, ÐŽ§Yet by his gift is made thine own; thereÐŽ¦s wealth enough, I need no more, farewell, my pelf, farewell my store. The world no longer let me love, my hope and treasure lies above.ЎЁ Again, Bradstreet is sticking to the original portrayal of Puritans in that they are calm, gentle people and work toward bettering themselves in the eyes of God.

However, Nathaniel Hawthorne takes a very different approach to portraying Puritans in his novel The Scarlet Letter. In his novel, he moves away from the traditional ÐŽ§nice guyЎЁ type of disposition that most Puritans were previously shown as possessing in earlier writings. Hawthorne shies away from the Puritan Theory that they want to purify the church and not separate from it. He exhibits this by showing the town of SalemÐŽ¦s actions toward Hester when she is found to have committed adultery. Instead of trying to purify Hester, they treat her very severely with strict punishments, the most of harsh of which was wearing the scarlet letter ÐŽ§AЎЁ on her breast. They also ostracize her from the rest of community by making her an outcast and making her feel unwanted. Also, they treat Hester as if she has committed the most heinous of sins and that there is no way she can rightly justify her actions. Originally, Puritans held strong to the belief that everyone was born into sin.



Download as:   txt (9.3 Kb)   pdf (110.4 Kb)   docx (11.8 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 11). Scarlett Letter. Retrieved 11, 2010, from

"Scarlett Letter" 11 2010. 2010. 11 2010 <>.

"Scarlett Letter.", 11 2010. Web. 11 2010. <>.

"Scarlett Letter." 11, 2010. Accessed 11, 2010.