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The Puritan Legacy. American Literature’s Colonial Roots. © 2003-2004 © 2003-2004 © 2003-2004 © 2003-2004 Remember the Pilgrims?. Pilgrims and Puritans.

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The puritan legacy

The Puritan Legacy

American Literature’s Colonial Roots

Remember the pilgrims

© 2003-2004

© 2003-2004

© 2003-2004

© 2003-2004

Remember the Pilgrims?

Pilgrims and puritans
Pilgrims and Puritans

  • The Pilgrims were part of a group of English Puritans called the “Separatists” who fled persecution in England.

    • The Pilgrims traveled to America aboard the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth in 1620.

  • Puritans is a general term for English Protestants who wanted to “purify” the Church of England.

    • The Puritans objected to the rituals, decorations, and organization of the Church of England. They wanted a simpler form of worship and organization.

A puritan time line

In England

1642–1651: English civil wars between Puritans and Royalists

1653–1658: Puritan Oliver Cromwell rules England as lord protector

1660:Monarchy restored under Charles II

1608:Separatists flee England for Holland



1620:Mayflower Pilgrims land at Plymouth

1630:Great migration of Puritans to New England begins

1692:Salem witch trials

In America

A Puritan Time Line

What the puritans believed
What the Puritans Believed

  • Religion is a personal, inner experience.

  • Humans are wicked by nature, and most are marked for damnation.

  • A chosen few can be saved through the grace of God.

  • Hard work and worldly success are signs of God’s grace.

  • Education is essential in order to read the Word of God.

Grace the puritan ideal
Grace: The Puritan Ideal

  • Grace—God’s special favor—was the only way to escape an eternity in Hell.

  • People did not know for certain if they had grace, but they could feel the arrival of grace as an intense emotion.

  • People who had grace were among the “elect” (saved).

  • People who did not have grace were among the “unregenerate” (damned).

Grace the puritan ideal1
Grace: The Puritan Ideal

  • The presence of grace was demonstrated by a person’s outward behavior. People with grace displayed

  • self-reliance

  • personal responsibility

  • industriousness

  • temperance

  • simplicity

Puritan Government

  • In Theory

    • Every individual had an equal covenant with God.

    • Laws came from God, as revealed in scripture.

      In Practice

    • Most people yielded authority to those seen as the saintly “elect.”

    • Conformity and obedience took precedence over individual rights.

Puritan Literature

  • What the Puritans Read

    • The Bible and other religious texts

      Why They Read

    • Puritans stressed individual responsibility for spiritual development.

    • Every person was responsible for reading and understanding the Bible.

Puritan Literature

  • What the Puritans Wrote

  • Sermons, essays, and poems on spiritual and religious subjects

  • Diaries and histories that recorded inner and outer events of their lives

    Why They Wrote

  • Puritans used writing to explore their lives for signs of grace and to describe the workings of God in their communities.

Plain style
Plain Style

  • Puritans favored a plain style of writing. Plain style is a way of writing that stresses simplicity and clarity of expression. Plain style

    • emphasizes uncomplicated sentences and the use of everyday words from common speech

    • avoids elaborate figures of speech and imagery

  • “There is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”

  • from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards

  • Salem believers run amok
    Salem: Believers Run Amok

    • 1692—Girls suffer from mysterious illness in Salem, Massachusetts.

    • Doctors blame witchcraft.

    • Mass hysteria erupts; neighbors accuse one another.

    • In the end, about 150 people were accused, and 20 were executed.

    What happened to the puritans
    What Happened to the Puritans?

    • The Age of Faith gradually gave way to the Age of Reason.

      • Philosophers and scientists stressed the importance of using reason, rather than religion, to explain how the world operates.

    • The Puritans didn’t disappear—their culture was absorbed into the colonial mainstream.

    The puritan legacy1
    The Puritan Legacy

    • In the United States, we generally value

      • individual rights and responsibilities

      • equality of individuals

      • literacy and education

      • spiritual and worldly rewards for hard work

    What Have You Learned?

    • 1. Puritans believed that religion was a personal, inner experience.

    • a. true b. false

    • 2. Those who had grace were among the

    • a. damned b. unregenerate c. elect

    • 3. A person with grace may display all of the following characteristics except

    • a. simplicity b. self-reliance c. greed