The Scarlet Letter

Puritan Influence in Contemporary American Society

Puritans are often mischaracterized as overly strict and moral persons whose lives revolve around killjoy attitudes and laws against all innocent social pleasures. Qualities of sympathy, charity, and compassion are rarely tied to Puritanism or seen as characteristics that exemplified their way of life. (Newberry, 101) In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" however, these traits are exemplified as recessive, as opposed to nonexistent, in the actions and lives of Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale. These are outcasts shunned by society because they failed to live up to the Puritans' strict and unwavering standards of moral behavior. However, the Puritans' narrow moralism and social repression still had a much deeper influence in the United States than did the recessive qualities depicted in Hester, Pearl, and Dimmesdale (Barzun, 283). The current role of women in society and attitudes toward deception and scandal today exemplify Puritans thinking.

Numerous events in "The Scarlet Letter" help us paint a clearer picture about the role of women in Puritan society. Cindy Lou Daniels writes about one reoccurring example, "In Hawthorne's novel, the strict authoritarianism of Puritan patriarchy...

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