How does The Scarlet Letter relate to American history?

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The austere Puritan community in Boston, Massachusetts during the 16th and 17th centuries is depicted throughout Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter . Puritans were essentially religious fanatics, who established a theocracy and held a strict interpretation of the Bible. The Puritan community in North America focused on conformity, humility, hard...

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The austere Puritan community in Boston, Massachusetts during the 16th and 17th centuries is depicted throughout Hawthorne's novel, The Scarlet Letter. Puritans were essentially religious fanatics, who established a theocracy and held a strict interpretation of the Bible. The Puritan community in North America focused on conformity, humility, hard work, and religious observance. A citizen's reputation was significant throughout the Puritan community, where a person's personal life was virtually non-existent and sins were publicly announced.

In the novel, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a scarlet letter, which represents her sin of adultery. In the Puritan era, adultery was not only viewed as a sin, but it was also considered a crime. Hester Prynne is forced to wear her badge of shame for life and is considered an outcast in the community. Initially, the Puritans treat Hester with contempt for her sin, which prevents her from developing meaningful relationships with other citizens. Hawthorne's novel not only gives the reader an inside look into one of America's first communities, but it also depicts the close relationship between religion and hypocrisy, which is a prevalent aspect of American culture to this day. Generally speaking, Puritans were not merciful, tolerant individuals, and their overzealous attitudes eventually resulted in the destruction of their once structured community. 

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The Puritanical mindset of Hawthorne's characters has been reflected repeatedly in American history

The forbidding of anyone who differs from one's own culture is a precept of the Puritanical code.  Such incidents as The McCarthy hearings in which people were accused of being communist rings symbolically of the mentioned Salem Witchcraft trials.

Prohibition in the early 20th century is a result of strict Puritanical religious beliefs.

Bias against Catholicism in the South is a result of the Puritanical ancestry ( Cromwell and the fights against the Anglican Church) in the British Isles that came across the ocean.

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The Scarlet Letter, above all else, illustrates the Puritan way of life among the early settlers in this country. The Puritans were a strict community who practiced a form of government known as a theocracy; this is a government in which all laws and policies are decided on by officials strongly connected to the church, which also depicts a time before separation of church and state was established in our country.  The close ties with the church served to further establish a rigid government in which laws were developed from strict religious and moral codes and beliefs.  As such, the Salem Witch Trials might not have occurred if it had not been for this theocracy in which the Puritans lived.  Their alleged actions were seemingly against the church and really could not be deemed "illegal" by today's standards as the accusations were mostly based no hearsay.  However, in that time, a crime against the church was also a crime against society, adn as such the accused suffered legal action because of their theocracy.  The same goes for Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter; her infidelity would not be illegal by today's laws, yet at that time because it was a moral sin, it was also a form of breaking the law and as a result she could be (and was) tried by a legal system and punished by that government.

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