American Essay

University of Limerick English Department ‘New England Puritanism is as significant as a form of social control as it is as a form of religious doctrine.’ Discuss with reference to the work of at least two of the writers on the module. Essay for the Lecture EH4145 American Literature Fall 2008 xxxxxxx Submitted by: xxxxxxx Student ID xxxxxxx Erasmus Exchange Programme The Puritans left England in the hope of escaping from the growing persecution and suppression of their faith. They thought o
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  University of Limerick English Department ‘New England Puritanism is as significantas a form of social control as it is as a formof religious doctrine.’ Discuss with reference to the work of at least two of the writers on themodule.Essay for the Lecture EH4145 American Literature Fall 2008xxxxxxxSubmitted by:xxxxxxxStudent ID xxxxxxxErasmus Exchange Programme  The Puritans left England in the hope of escaping from the growing persecution and sup-pression of their faith. They thought of themselves as “a people of God” sent to cultivate whathad hitherto been “the devil’s territories” (Mather 308) to establish God’s kingdom on earth.Furthermore, they believed that England was doomed anyway, since “the Old World would bedestroyed by the eschatological and apocalyptic violence that would precede the millenium”(Zakai 23). John Winthrop, the future governor of the first Puritan colony in MassachusettsBay, predicted that “God will bring some heavy affliction upon the land [England], and thatspeedily.” In this essay I will examine their hopes for their new lives in the Puritan colony andcompare to the reality of how Puritanism affected various aspects of life, be it in the domesticor grander social sphere. 1 The Vision of the Puritan State TheoriginalvisionofthiscommunityofPuritansettlersisperhapsbestdescribedinWinthrops’  Model of Christian Charity , a sermon he delivered to his fellow Puritan emigrants on boardthe ship that was to bring them to America. Here, Winthrop paints the picture of a brotherhoodof Puritans, united through their faith:For this end we must be knit together in this work as one man. We must enter-tain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of other’s necessities. We must uphold a familiarcommerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We mustdelight in each other, make other’s conditions our own, rejoice together, mourntogether, labour and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commis-sion and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.(Winthrop 157-58)1  He also stresses that theirs is a holy enterprise, undertaken to “improve our lives to do moreservice to the Lord” (Winthrop 156). This is a reference to the unfavorable conditions in whichthe Puritans exercised their faith in England, but also helps to build his vision of the perfectcommunity of God’s chosen people in New England, who will practice in their daily liveswhat “most in their churches maintain as a truth in profession only” (Winthrop 156).In short, Winthrop wanted their colony to be a model of Christian charity , so that “men shallsay of succeeding plantations, ‘the Lord make it like that of of [sic] NEW ENGLAND.’ ”(Winthrop 158) 2 The Reality Winthrops’ vision of the Puritan settlement in Massachusetts Bay certainly was a noble onefull of good intentions. It is a wholly other matter, however, how and to what extent his ideasof charity were put into practice in the newly founded colony. 2.1 Domestic Life To explore New England Puritanism as a means of social control, it will be useful to look atits impact on one of the smallest social groupings within a community - the family. A lot of the principles and values found within the family will also carry over to the larger body of thecommunity and influence politics and social life in general.One important issue of Puritanism is the role of the two sexes in marriage. In his famousspeech On Liberty in 1643, Winthrop also gives insight on the Puritan view on marriage:The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband, yet being so chosen, heis her lord and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage,and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would notthink her condition safe and free but in her subjection to her husband’s authority.2  (Winthrop 166)He asserts that there is a clear hierarchy in marriage, with the woman being subordinate to herhusband and having to obey his decisions.These are also the findings of Levin Schücking in his study of  The Puritan Family . Eventhough this study was conducted with source material from England, it mirrors Mathers con-ception of marriage and is relevant for understanding the Puritan doctrine in New England. Inaccordance with Winthrop, Schücking observes that the Puritans “insisted that the relation of man and woman in Christian marriage was the same as that between Christ and his Church”(Schücking 32) and that “the man, as St Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians clearly shows, wasthe head, the woman a member of the family”(33). Schücking also cites Tyndale, who equalsthe obedience of a wife to her husband with that of servants to their masters (33). This againechoes Winthrops’ account and shows that the idea of subservience of women was common-place in Puritan society.As a whole, this is an example of social control through Puritan doctrine. The idea of the sub-servience of woman to man was introduced and justified by the Puritan creed, thus maintaininga certain social order. 2.2 Social Order and Puritanism Even though Winthrop conjures up the idea of a Puritan brotherhood, he makes it clear rightfrom the beginning that this doesn’t mean equality. According to him, both rich and poor havetheir place in the grand scheme of things:God Almighty [...] has so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all timessome must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity;others mean and in subjection.Most importantly, though, he also argues that there is a mutual dependance of both rich andpoor and that any kind of revolution would go against the will of God: “the rich and mighty3
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