Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Delivered in 1741 in a Puritan church in Enfield, Connecticut

Narrator and Point of View

Spoken by Edwards, often seeming to take on the perspective of the wrathful God described throughout in an attempt to get the listeners to see themselves through God’s eyes

Tone and Mood

Angry, Violent, Energetic, Intense, Solemn, and Tense

Protagonist and Antagonist

God (Protagonist) vs. Humans (Antagonists)

Major Conflict

The human struggle to make it to Heaven despite their transgression.


The end of the sermon, with its command to flee, is arguably the climax, as within the text itself there’s no lessening of the tension built up throughout


Edwards foreshadows his later turn to focusing exclusively on the sinfulness of the congregation near the beginning of the “Doctrine” section when he says “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, that it may be are at ease and quiet, than he is with many of those that are now in the flames of hell.”


The goodness of God is understated in portions of the sermon.


Biblical allusions and quotations, marked and not, occur throughout, as do the occasional reference to classical mythology (such as the Sword of Damocles)


Fire, flood, devils-as-lions—”Sinners” is rife with images meant to capture the rage and power of God, and the lowliness and impotence of humans.


At any moment, God’s grace is the only thing preventing you from falling into hell, and yet God is furious with you and despises you.


Metonymy and Synecdoche


The most significant form of personification in the sermon is that of God, who seems almost strangely corporeal, physically “crushing” sinners under his feet, for example.