What was the impact of Puritanism on 19th century American society and literature?

Expert Answers
thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Puritanism began as a religious movement among extreme Protestants during the Christian church reformation in England. Their main agenda was to establish Christian doctrines free from Catholic influence. The movement reached North America through pilgrims from England, who sought to settle in the New World. They succeeded in establishing colonies in North America, which were based on strict values that included self-reliance, hard work and frugality. Similar values were passed on to the American society. Further, congregational democracy in the Puritan church was blended into the modern American democratic sociopolitical life. Puritanism also focused substantial amounts of its energy on education and ensuring the people were informed.

Modern American society can trace its ideals of individualism, mutual respect and privacy to Puritanism. Puritanism ideals held that all Christians were capable of communicating with God thus eliminating the over-reliance on priests as established in Roman Catholicism. This also provided avenues for questioning established authorities by members of the society.

Puritanism had an impact on American literature seen through works that communicate American mythology as developed by the religious society. Puritans were known to keep personal journals which sought to offer a spiritual explanation for their daily events. Spiritual explanations were sought for events that would have rather been considered mere coincidences. Study of such events led to the development of American folklore. The keeping of the personal diaries by the Puritans also helped cultivate writing and reading culture which was necessary for the development of modern American literary works.