In "The Scarlet Letter" what information does the narrator give about a Puritan's willingness to show excitment, friendliness, or joy?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 21, "The New England Holiday," Hawthorne  writes that the townspeople have an "unwonted jollity" upon their normally stern Puritan faces.  Hawthorne remarks that the Puritans

compressed whatever mirth and public joy they deemed allowable to human infirmity...that, for the space of a single holiday, they appeared scarcely more grave than most other communities at a period of general affliction.

Hawthorne cannot but reflect on the irony of such a stern people who have come from England where people lived in

the sunny richness of the Elizabethan epoch; a time when the life of England...would appear to have been as stately, magnificent, and joyous, as the world has ever witness.

These grim Puritans have turned from the joyousness of "bonfires, banquets, pageantries, and processions."  Now there is only is only a "dim reflection" of a lively and happy people. Nevertheless, the colonists do participate in sports, wrestling matches, fencing, and some other activities.  But, Hawthorne continues, there are no theatrical acts, no juggling, no jesters.   Puritanism, writes Hawthorne, wears the "blackest shade" and "darkened the national visage with it," so much so that all the years afterwards have not "cleared" this gloom:  "We have yet to learn again the forgotten art of gayety," writes Hawthorne.

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The Scarlet Letter

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