Saturday, October 30, 2010

In the town where they were born

     The first largely colonial section of the now United States in the 1600s, Massachusetts, is the setting of many historically interesting events regarding Puritans and it is also home to the Romantic novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote about Puritan society. Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter and of The House of Seven Gables among others, was born in infamous Salem, Massachusetts where deadly witch trials took place approximately a century earlier. Remarkably, Nathaniel's ancestor was a judge in the witch trials whose surname was Hathorne but Hawthorne was compelled to disassociate himself with his great-great-grandfather and therefore, he added a "w" to his name. Later in life, Nathaniel wrote his most famous work, The Scarlet Letter, detailing Puritan methods of life and of punishment through his character Hester Pyrnne, an adulteress.
     The town of Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is a devout Puritan theocratic society, run by the word of God. The citizens of Puritan towns were governed by extremely strict laws. They regarded any form of enjoyment as a sin. Rule breaking such as not attending mass for one Sunday led to punishment and raised questions about "sinner's" moral and religious conviction. Small acts like this could, in fact, result in accusations of witchcraft since the community had a strong belief in demonology. Those condemned would be put to death like the adulterers and murderers were. In this religious society, the roles of the family members were rigidly outlined; men were expected to provide for the family and held sole authority, women worked around the house and bore children, and the children should abstain from any form of enjoyment and comply with all adult expectations.
     The effects on current American society that the Puritan society caused are very minimal in everyday life. However, we are held to the same moral standards of a Christian belief system that the Puritans were. Disobeying these laws will almost result in jail-time which is a beneficial aspect to our nation. Fortunately, the nation is becoming increasingly secular and tolerant towards other lifestyles.      

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