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Calvinism: A Look Into Domestic Life In Catherine Sedgwick's Novel, A New England Tale

1473 words - 6 pages

Catharine Sedgwick’s novel, A New-England Tale, tells the story of an orphan, Jane Elton, who “fights to preserve her honesty and her dignity in a household where religion is much talked about but little practiced” (Back Cover). The story take place in the 1820s, a time when many children were suffering in silence due to the fact that there was really no way to get people to understand exactly how bad things were for them. The only way anyone could ever really get a true understanding of the lives of the children in these households would be by knowing what took place in their homes. Outside of the home these women seemed perfectly normal and there was not reason to suspect any crookedness. The author herself was raised by a woman of Calvinist religion and realized how unjust things were for her and how her upbringing had ultimately play at role on her outcome. Sedgwick uses her novel, A New-England Tale to express to her readers how dreadful life was being raised by women of Calvinist religion and it’s affect by depicting their customary domestic life. She takes her readers on an in deep journey through what a typical household in the 1820s would be like providing them with vivid descriptions and reenactments of the domestic life during this period.
In the novel, Mrs. Wilson, a woman of Calvinist religion has taken in her niece Jane after the death of her parents. During one of their first conversations, Mrs. Wilson immediately expresses one of the important guidelines of her household to her niece after she sees she is not as easily swayed as she first thought. “I tell you once for all, I allow no child in my house to know right from wrong: children have no reason, and they ought to be very thankful, when they fall into the hands of those that are capable of judging for them” (37). In normal homes, parents want their children to know right from wrong and typically start teaching them the difference at a young age. This was not the case with Mrs. Wilson and she believed the exact opposite. She states that, “children have no reason” showing her disbelief in children’s ability to really learn things of value for themselves. Here the reader can see that Mrs. Wilson has a lack of reverence for children’s learning and believes that they should only be concerned with learning what she tells them to know. Mrs. Wilson informs Jane that she should really be thankful that she has “fallen into the hands” of her as if she would reap some sort of benefits from her new arrangement. When you “fall into the hands” of someone that basically means that you have given them control over you or they have simply assumed that position. This phrase does not normally carry a positive connotation and can be referenced back to the bible scripture, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (NIV Hebrews 10:31). This scripture relates to the story of David and his bold decision to “fall into the hands” of the Lord instead of suffering the...

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