Wigglesworth's Poems

The Hellfire of Puritanism: A Historical Consideration of Wigglesworth's "The Day of Doom"

Explicit accounts of hellfire and damnation may not be the hallmarks of contemporary popular novels, but America's first bestseller was full of such shocking imagery. Graphic illustrations of the Christian faith's Judgment Day saturate Michael Wigglesworth's poem, "The Day of Doom." Published in 1662, this piece is the highlight of his anthology of the same title, which includes three additional religious poems. New England readers devoured the first edition; it is approximated by historians that one in every thirty-five American households owned a copy of Wigglesworth's book in the 1660s. The poem was written in direct accordance with the most intimidating passages from the Bible, and it reports the frightening consequences of the end of the world. Contemporary readers might find it odd that such a disturbing literary work would be so popular. However, the severity of Wigglesworth's poem was embraced in its day. By considering this text in its historical context, it is evident that the demonstrated motives, effects, cultural perspectives, and symbols are products of the Puritan worldview that was prevalent in the 17th century.

The poem is written as a Christian narrative of Judgment Day. Pocked...

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