How are the morals of the Puritans and the 1850's different and similar? Give specific examples from "The Scarlet Letter."What I mean by this is does the book show more about morals during the...

How are the morals of the Puritans and the 1850's different and similar? Give specific examples from "The Scarlet Letter."

What I mean by this is does the book show more about morals during the 1850's or in Puritan times?  When I was searching through the book I found some things that were against Puritan morals, for instance, the empty ale tankard that was in the governors house. Puritans were against drinking.  What I need is more specifics from the book that I am not seeing.

Asked on by isis993366

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dbello's profile pic

dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Ok, I understand he was upset with his family and that was the reason why he added a "w" to his last name.  Was this the reason for Mrs. Hibbins in the book, because he was upset about the Salem witch trials?  I thought she was left in the book to show the hypocrisy of Puritan culture; for instance, because she was related to the governor, she wasn't put to death even though everyone knew she was a witch.

And I understand that Hester was a lost soul to them because of predestination and because they never believed that you could somehow redeem yourself in the eyes of God.  But, after some reflection on Hester's part, she went against the grain to be her own woman, by raising a child and wearing the letter even when she could have taken it off, instead of letting the rest of her town tell her what she could and couldn't do. All of this combined makes her a feminist in her own right, correct?

But how does all of this relate to the mortality of the 1850's?
Obviously they were more tolerant than the Puritans.  The problem I am having is coming up with specifics from the book, antichronisms which would link the book to the  morality of the 1850’s.  This is for a history class and he wants us to look at this book from a historical standpoint instead of a literary one, and he wants us to compare when Hawthorne wrote the book to Puritan times.

Sorry, its just when it comes to this book, I understand nothing.

Your question has changed from its original post which is fine, for the beauty of complex thought can only be achieved by thinking and then re-thinking the question. Your question can be assessed in this manner... Did the moral attitudes of the 1850's have anything in common with the Puritans?  If history is the primary goal, the hypocrisies of the Puritans were not much different that the hypocrisies of slaveholders of the 1850's. The Purtian belief that life was predestined and salvation could only be acquired by the grace of God. This could be compared to those who believed that slavery was 'ordained' and or predestined by the grace of God. The 1850's marks the point of no return for the United States. If your instructor wants a comparsion, the most valid is the society's hypocrisy regarding the compassion it says it has for people, and the reality of its utter lacking of that very compassion. The name of the group is inconsequential.

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Part of the problem with your question is that it's difficult to know exactly what the Puritans believed, and it is somewhat irrelevant to the story.  The one thing that I believe is incorrect is calling Hester a feminist.  Rather than standing up for womanhood, I think her acceptance of the "A" is part of her acceptance of the fact that she has violated a legitimate social rule (whether we like it or not).  She accepts the right of the society to sanction her for violating that social code.  She does not, however, feel personal guilt for what she as done; compare this to Dimmesdale who is destroyed by the guilt he feels for his failing.  So she wears the letter, but is enabled through it or in spite of it ... but I don't think it has anything to do with feminism.

I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but you already have some suggestions.  And it is pretty safe to assume that the moral structures of our society have "loosened" up since the times of "The Scarlet Letter."

sullymonster's profile pic

sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Hawthorne, upset by the behavior of his ancestors (his great-great grandfather was a prosecuting judge in the witch trials), writes the Scarlet Letter to criticize the behavior of the Puritans.  In showing this criticism, readers can see that the morals of the 1850s must be different than the 1650s, otherwise Hawthorne's book would have been controversial.

For example, look at the protagonist, Hester.  In Puritan times, Hester would have suffered for her sin.  She would have been portrayed as an ugly soul, lost to the devil.  Because of their belief in predestination, the Puritans would have accepted that this sinner is obviously destined for hell and not worthy to be saved.  However, Hawthorne shows her must differently.  Hester atones for her sin, but she also thrives and transforms societies image of her:

But, in the lapse of the toilsome, thoughtful, and self-devoted years that made up Hester's life, the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too.

A smaller item is how the Puritans were against finery - nothing should distract from the worship of God.  However, the Governor's house was elaborately ornate, and the women of town purchased many of Hester's fancy dresses, in violation of this moral.

isis993366's profile pic

isis993366 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I’m sorry about the total question change, I have been working on this book for about 3 weeks now and I keep coming up with questions that I want to somehow tie in to my report.

As for the feminist qualities of Hester, I was having a little trouble finding that in the book earlier.  To me, she didn’t liberate anyone or try to make them equal, all she did was inform them about the sexism in her community through going about her daily life with the “A” on her chest, hence the meaning of the “A” turned from adulterer to able.  I do think that because she went off to a cottage on the edge of the woods to live with just her and Pearl, that it shows a bit of strength on her part to be a single parent and still do all of the charity work that she was involved in.  I would think Pearl as more of a liberator in the story though because without Pearl, Hester would never have started reflecting on her society to discover what she did.  

As for dbello, that is what I meant by the morals of 1850.  The question my teacher asked us was, “Does The Scarlet Letter reveal more about morality in 1850 or in Puritan times? In what ways?”  And the problem is I don’t really know about the morals of 1850, and the teacher has not, and is not going to go over the morality of that time period.  And I have been searching on the Internet for some kind of answer to that question and I am not finding much of anything.

isis993366's profile pic

isis993366 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Ok, I understand he was upset with his family and that was the reason why he added a "w" to his last name.  Was this the reason for Mrs. Hibbins in the book, because he was upset about the Salem witch trials?  I thought she was left in the book to show the hypocrisy of Puritan culture; for instance, because she was related to the governor, she wasn't put to death even though everyone knew she was a witch.

And I understand that Hester was a lost soul to them because of predestination and because they never believed that you could somehow redeem yourself in the eyes of God.  But, after some reflection on Hester's part, she went against the grain to be her own woman, by raising a child and wearing the letter even when she could have taken it off, instead of letting the rest of her town tell her what she could and couldn't do. All of this combined makes her a feminist in her own right, correct?

But how does all of this relate to the mortality of the 1850's?
Obviously they were more tolerant than the Puritans.  The problem I am having is coming up with specifics from the book, antichronisms which would link the book to the  morality of the 1850’s.  This is for a history class and he wants us to look at this book from a historical standpoint instead of a literary one, and he wants us to compare when Hawthorne wrote the book to Puritan times.

Sorry, its just when it comes to this book, I understand nothing.

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