What does "The Taming of the Heart" refer to in The Puritan Dilemma by Edmund S. Morgan?

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter One, entitled "The Taming of the Heart," in Edmund Morgan's classic work deals with John Winthrop's early life, including his college days, when he first encountered and embraced Puritanism. Morgan argues that for Winthrop, the all-consuming problem that Puritanism posed was that of "living in this world without taking his mind off God," because unlike monks, Puritans were expected to participate actively in the world, as businessmen and as community and especially religious leaders. Winthrop, Morgan says, was a man who enjoyed the pleasures of life, and struggled with how to "love the world with moderation and God without." In other words, his life, like that of many Puritans, represented a tension between the worldly, which was not off limits, and God.

Eventually, Morgan claims, Winthrop achieved what seemed to him to be a healthy balance between the worldly and the holy life. This occurred for two reasons. First, as he grew older, Winthrop poured more of himself into work, which was increasingly coming to involve public affairs as well as managing his considerable estates. Second, he married Margaret Tyndal *his third wife after the first two died young.) She was a woman who shared his Puritan sensibilities, and thus understood her role and that of her husband. In this way, Winthrop "tamed his heart," i.e. his desire for worldly pleasures.

Source: Morgan, Edmund S.. The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1953. pp 3-18.