Puritanism was a reaction to the concepts of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the corruption; however, it also rejected the idea that man could attain salvation by means of good acts and sacramental grace. Instead, as John Calvin, the father of the Reformed Hugenot Church in France who also influenced the English Puritans, declared man is inherently evil. His concept of "total depravity" is a teaching that as a consequence of the sins of Adam and Eve--"the Fall of Man"--every person in the world is born to the service of sin; apart from becoming one of God's elect and being saved, man is unable to choose to follow God or experience the saving grace of salvation.
Thus, Puritanism is a very negative religion that offers no hope for any but the "elect." Since there was no certainty if one would ever be of the elect, Puritans tried to live exemplary lives. On the other hand, if they sinned, Puritans felt compelled to hide their transgressions for fear of condemnation. This condition, of course, led to much hypocrisy and also sanctimony on the part of members of the Puritan community, a condition that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrestled with in his literature.
Puritanism was a religious faith based on the ideas of John Calvin. Puritans believed strongly in predestination and in a simple faith that was to be administered at the local level and not by a hierarchy. They were called Puritans because they wanted to purify the Church of England of all vestiges of Roman Catholicism.
The impact of Puritanism on American literature is a topic that is pretty strongly debated. Some scholars that the Puritans produced no great literature. Others argue that Puritan ideas created an American populace that valued education and books and that Puritanism was therefore the basis for the American literature that would come later.