Comment briefly on the attitude of the Puritans to literature in the nineteenth century.

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First, one should note that the term "Puritan" refers to a religious movement that flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not in the nineteenth century, although conservative Calvinism continued to be influential in the later period. Although Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is set in the seventeenth century and has Puritans...

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First, one should note that the term "Puritan" refers to a religious movement that flourished in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not in the nineteenth century, although conservative Calvinism continued to be influential in the later period. Although Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter is set in the seventeenth century and has Puritans as characters, it is an example of historical fiction, in which Hawthorne is writing about events long before his own birth.

For the Puritans themselves, many were opposed to fictional works on biblical grounds. The Old Testament prohibitions against idols and graven images can be applied to literary works as well as visual arts. The New Testament epistles are highly critical of fables, especially Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy.

The Puritan response to fables can sometimes take the position of Tertullian on the relationship between "Athens and Jerusalem," arguing that secular literature has no place in Christian life. Other Puritans, such as Milton, argued the Augustinian position that literature can be created in service of Christianity, much like the gold the Jews took from Egypt. While some Puritans believed in censoring literary works, others did not. Most would have opposed works that were blasphemous or pornographic.

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The Puritans believed that salvation after death depended upon living in accordance with the covenants established between God and humanity, as recorded in the Bible. Education was highly valued by the Puritans because they wanted everyone to be able to read and understand the Bible, the means for determining proper behavior in all situations.

The Puritans did not approve of types of literature (or other activities) that did not directly support the focus upon achieving a worthy existence by strictly complying with the code of behavior set out by the Puritan church as found in the Bible. Literature intended for recreational reading would have been forbidden in Puritan society.

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