The Role Of Religion On The Characteristics Of A Hero

903 words - 4 pages

Throughout American Literature, the change in the role of religion in the American Dream is shown by the change in the characteristics of a “hero”
In the Puritan era, every person was seen as a sinner, and the only people who could be looked up to were the people who taught the will of God; the preachers were the leaders of the Puritan society. In his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God”, Reverend Jonathan Edwards says "The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you" (Edwards 47). In this quote, Edwards is showing the malice that he, the “hero” in his society, has for the people that listen to his ...view middle of the document...

This speech and others like it elevated the American rebels to hero status, and paved the way to war. “This war is inevitable—and let it come!”(Henry 85).
The change in the characteristics of a hero is quite dramatic between Puritanism and Rationalism. In Puritanism, and mentioned above, a hero was a God-fearing man who put service to his religion before everything. The American dream for the Puritans was to live as sin-free as possible, even to the point where they were living in terrible conditions, believing that they deserved it. In other words, they lived with very little freedom. They also believed in subtlety. “The Puritan life in keeping true to the divine law did everything in moderation. While they did dress in their social classes and drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned those who would take these things to excess” (The Puritan Life). By contrast, the Rationalist view of a hero was all about freedom, and their American dream was to live free of oppression. Rationalists worshipped the same god as the Puritans but in a different way, because submissive, Godly men were no longer seen as heroes. However, both the Puritans and the Rationalists believed in moderation. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin lists the major virtues which he believes make a good life. “Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve” (Franklin 72). Thus, the two eras diverge but some Puritan values were still important during the Rationalist Era.
Through the transcendentalist era, the idea of...

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