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Sin And Corruption Of Puritan Society Illustrated In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Miller's The Crucible, And Bradstreet's To My Dear And Loving Hus

990 words - 4 pages

Puritans may have tried to give themselves the appearance of a perfect society, but it was really just as corrupt and full of sinners as any society today. In the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Crucible by Arthur Miller and “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet, there is evidence for this. In Puritan literature, although they try to hide it, sin is very common, in that Puritans do the opposite of what they preach, but still harshly punish those who sin.
Affairs are a common sin with the Puritans that cannot be kept secret, because of the Puritan stress on faithfulness and love in marriages and the negative view of divorce. Affairs are bountiful in Puritan society; even a minister, one who preaches sin, commits adultery. While Dimmesdale is talking about Hester, he says, “Neither can I any longer live without her companionship; so powerful is she to sustain-so tender to sooth” (Hawthorne 191). Not only did the minister commit this sin in the first place, but Dimmesdale is going to renew his affair, even though as a priest, he obviously knows it is against God’s will. Puritans try to hide adultery in order to seem sinless, and fit into the Puritan mold, but it is most often discovered. It becomes apparent that Elizabeth knows of her husband’s unfaithfulness when she asks, “John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now? I think not” (Miller 54). Elizabeth is obviously aware of her husband’s disloyalty but even if it pains two people to stay married, they will not get a divorce, because that is against Puritan beliefs. Although, adultery is also against Puritan beliefs, but that doesn’t stop some sinners. These affairs are often discovered because Puritans so strongly believe in loving marriages, and when a couple is not so affectionate, adultery is often suspected. In Bradstreet’s poem, the speaker is a woman writing about her husband and she says, “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, or all the riches that the East doth hold” (Bradstreet 5-6). This is the standard level of devotion expected in Puritan couples and if it is not met, surrounding people figure that something must not be right, and they investigate, often uncovering sin. Although adultery is preached against in the Ten Commandments, Puritans are still often discovered committing this sin.
Another common, harshly punished sin is witchcraft, and the irony is clear when the Puritans turn each other in, against their strong idea of unity. The Puritans try hard to keep this offense hidden as well. When Mary Warren is talking to Abby she says, “It’s a sin to conjure, and we-” and Abby replies, “I say shut it, Mary Warren!” (Miller 19) Abby is hiding this sin by lies of omission, another sin in itself. The lies of omission are motivated by the fact that when a Puritan is even suspected of witchcraft, they are...

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