Puritanism in American Literature
The Puritans had a profound effect upon American culture. As a political, social, and cultural force, Puritanism lasted until around 1728. At this point the center of the country began a shift to the south. The “Age of Reason” was also ushered in by way of European social philosophy. Many other historical forces impacted the movement of America away from a religious haven towards an economic and political powerhouse.
The puritanical strands of religious thought and moral judgment continue to influence, in varying degrees, the social and political thinking in America.
Background of Puritanism
1620 - William Bradford came with a group of individuals from Europe and formed Plymouth Plantation. In the Fall of 1620 there were 101 men, women, and children present. By the Spring of 1621 there were only 50 survivors.
1628 - John Winthrop and followers came over from Europe in order to establish a “pure” religious movement.
The Puritans believed in the innate depravity of man. They also believed that some people were “predestined” to experience an afterlife with God. Only the “elect” or “chosen” were in a good relationship with God.
* The Puritans believed that God was working in their daily lives.
* The Puritans would “search” their daily lives in order to find any symbols from God.
* The Puritans were educated and taught their followers to be rational thinkers.
* The Puritans believed in effective business practices but they also preached a separation from worldly pleasures.
* The Puritans feared that humanistic learning would draw people away from the church. They were right about this!
* This fundamental Puritan belief became complicated because it had to be determined who belonged to the group of “chosen” people.
How did Puritanism relate to literature?
There are many opinions about this question. Some would argue that American literature simply grew out of changing...