Puritanism was a movement that arose towards the end of the 16th century.  It was a direct result of the split of the Catholic Church. The Anglicans became the dominant Protestant religion in England and disapproved of the Puritan beliefs. To escape the religious persecution that followed, they escaped to the New World. (Religion of the American Republic)Puritans saw God as an omniscient and omnipotent being. They expressed His authority over all humans by preserving their covenant with God and by their righteousness within the aspects of church, religion, and community. The manipulation of the Puritan’s deep passion for righteousness within the social aspects of their community, through the fear based preaching of Jonathan Edwards, led to countless innocent deaths; However, revolutionists, Hawthorne and Miller, challenged this idea of blindly following God’s will by revealing the hypocrisy within Puritan beliefs which, ultimately, modified God’s influence in American social aspects with the introduction of individualism.Edward Taylor and Anne Bradstreet, through their literary works, reveal that with grace and hard work one may reach ultimate salvation. Predestination was a mainstay in their religious beliefs, so God chose who he would save and send to heaven. As a result, each person was refined by the grace of God and worked their entire lives to adhere to his laws. They did this through grace and hard work (Puritanism in New England). The first of the covenants was grace and involved a strong faith in God. The second covenant, hard work, depended on human action. Edward Taylor communicates his strong faith in God in his poem, “Huswifery.” He states, “O Lord, thy Spining Wheele compleate,” to demonstrate his servitude to God and his desire to find his destiny. Secondly, Anne Bradstreet, in “Verses Upon the Burning of our House,” expresses her utter devotion and ambitions for heaven. With her quote “hope and Treasure lies above,” she is content with losing her home because she knows that with hard work she will receive a better house in heaven. A passion for righteousness and desire to do God’s will eventually became a fundamental belief within Puritan’s church, religion, and their community. Initially, they sought out education and religious truth. They thought that those who read the Bible could find true belief in God. A good life could be lived out with an accurate and stern interpretation. Puritans established schools all over the country to reach this objective through education. This foundation balanced the difference between the classes and motivated the masses to believe that anything was possible. All these aspects mentioned provided for a strong belief in themselves driven by a stern passion for righteousness. Eventually, righteousness became their mission to the world and a component of their morality. The Puritans now exhibited a strong desire to know and do God’s will. (Puritans) (Puritan Life)In the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards deftly delivers an argument steeped in fear tactics to make his readers aware that they must adhere to the religious values expressed in the Bible. For instance, he made his audience aware that they could be cast into hell at any time and of the damnation God could cause. To show that human beings were still at the mercy of God, Edward’s states, “There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment” (Edwards, p. 5). In spite of this, Edwards still believed that humans had the power to save themselves by overcoming their corruption. This is done by an individual’s actions and his work done throughout his life. To Edwards, sinners are kept on earth because God is not ready to take them yet. He proceeds to take these threats and direct them towards individuals. Edward indicates, “Yea God is a great deal more angry with great Numbers that are now on Earth, yea doubtless with many that are now in this Congregation” (Edwards, p.7). He is attempting to inspire them to become better individuals and have a rebirth in their actions. This was different from many Puritan texts. They chose to believe Edwards when he stated that God’s goodness is the one thing that saves them. The fear of denouncement to hell terrified them and focused them on their path for righteousness. The thought that “hell is gaping for them” creates a strong motivation to do God’s will (Edwards, p.11). Their life, therefore, becomes a mission and they must live their life trying their best to pursue the highest form of morality.Unsurprisingly, the sermon led to much controversy among the congregants, as these acts of coercion influence a strict following of the law within their community. As seen in Hawthorne and Miller’s accounts, this led to unjust deaths and persecutions.Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller depicted life during the time of the Puritans and modified God’s influence in American social aspects with their literary works. William and John Hathorne, two Puritans and Hawthorne’s ancestors, came to America in the early 17th century. Hawthorne saw Puritanism as cruel and unacceptable. He completely disagreed with the unjust torturing and death sentences. Even as a kid in England, he despised all the religious rituals performed in the church. He decided to abandon the Puritan ideology and pursued his own different kind of philosophy (Nathaniel Hawthorne). On the other hand, Arthur Miller was born into a wealthy family in the early 20th century. He wrote novels recreating the Salem witch trials and ones that looked back at this time. Miller described the struggles of the individual to remain completely true to God’s ideal will (Arthur Miller Biography).Hawthorne depicted the hypocrisy that emerged from Puritan beliefs in his story, “Young Goodman Brown.” In the first account, Brown first enters the woods to engage in evil. He assumes that this will be his last time before he returns back to a life of virtue. Brown is also hypocritical when he criticizes others for being in the forest, while he is there himself. Goodman Brown lost his faith in his religion and entire society when he saw his neighbors, the people of the town, and even his wife participating in the witches’ Sabbath. Brown’s hypocrisy changes him for the worst, as he has now become a “stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man” (Hawthorne, 72). Brown condemns others for their offenses and presumes to judge others, but was ignorant of the fact that he was sinning as well.Arthur Miller depicts the hypocritical nature of the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, in his work, The Crucible. The townspeople are religiously devoted Puritans who obediently serve God. The Puritans, supposedly respectable Christians, reveal their hypocrisy by provoking the mass frenzy regarding witchcraft. Specific models include, firstly, Reverend Parris. He is a self-centered spiritual leader who values his “golden candlesticks” and position, over spreading messages of ambition and even over his own daughter. Danforth and the Judges, sentence innocent citizens to death if they dare to challenge their authority. Any account of wrongdoing was perceived as the devil, even for the most obscure of cases.The unjust sentences are a product of the stern devotion to God, established in literature like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, however, Hawthorne and Miller reveal the hypocritical nature within these Puritanical beliefs. Goodman Brown wants to live a life of morality and religious purity for the sake of his wife, Faith. However, he becomes fascinated with the many evils lurking in the forest and on the dark side. It motivates him to explore the unknown. Likewise, the people of the town in the Crucible, followers of the Christian faith, presumably follow patterns of love of their community and themselves, but habits of deceit and judgment are evident within them all. They state that the foundation of their society is built upon upholding God’s will, but they all possess qualities of bigotry and cruelty. Ultimately, their passion for righteousness was blinding them from realizing that they all sinners and culpable. Therefore, Hawthorne and Miller both challenge the idea that the Puritans were driven by their passion for righteousness by providing evidence of their mass hypocrisy. The Puritans had to blindly serve God out of fear of rejection from heaven. This aspect was detrimental to the social aspects of their society at that time.A concept of individualism eventually emerged after the rejection of the Puritanical idea regarding God’s influence in one’s passion for righteousness. Individualism stressed mutual respect, boundaries, and independence. Hawthorne and Miller both altered the idea that living out God’s will was a necessity. In American society, God and man are linked with one another, as humans today have the religious freedom to communicate with God. Specifically, after the removal of the hierarchical system and harsh rules of the church, Christians are able to live freely and independently. Unlike the Puritans, today we do not constantly fear God and can discover our mission to the world on our own (Individualism).Puritan literature encourage their followers to carry out God’s will, socially, through a strong emphasis on church, religion, and their community. One finds, through the literary works of Hawthorne and Miller, that constant desire to do what is morally right in the eyes of God was blinding the Puritans from realizing that they could at the same time be a sinner and culpable. Hawthorne and Miller’s works changed the points of view of many and now individualism has become a resolute belief in American culture.

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