The Age of Faith and
Puritan Legacy
American Literature’s Colonial Roots
© 2003-2004
© 2003-2004
© 2003-2004
© 2003-2004
Remember the Pilgrims?
The Age of Faith
The earliest period of American,
literature. Focused largely on God and
England governed American colonies
from 1607-1776. Writing begins with the
pilgrims’ arrival in 1620 and ends in the
middle 1700’s.
What We’re Reading:
We Read So You Can:
•“Here Follow Some Verses Upon the Burning
of My House” (Bradstreet)
•Analyze what abstract concepts, word and phrase
choices mean and how they affect a work of literature
from an era different than your own.
•“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
•“Of Plimoth Plantation” (Bradford)
•The Crucible* (Miller)
*not written in, but about, this period
•Understand the purpose of an author’s writing– even
when that purpose is tough to relate to.
•Interpret the meanings of texts and identify the
commonalities between them.
•Analyze the development of form (early non-fiction
narratives, poems, and speeches are all represented).
•Figure out how social context influences this writing,
and how the writing relates to your own experience.
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
flee England
for Holland
English civil
wars between
Puritans and
Puritan Oliver
Cromwell rules
England as lord
restored under
Charles II
Pilgrims land at
In America
Great migration of
Puritans to New
England begins
Salem witch
What the Puritans Believed
•Religion is a personal, inner experience.
•Humans are wicked by nature, and most are marked
for damnation (can’t change where you’re headed).
•A chosen few can be saved through the grace of God
(God’s choice—NOT yours).
•Hard work and worldly success are signs of God’s
grace (not the signs of a person trying to earn a ticket
to heaven).
•Education is essential in order to read the Word of God
(it’s not about improving one’s self for one’s own sake).
The Puritan God
• Puritans saw God as an angry punisher
• God punished man for our many sins (biblical roots)
• Puritans viewed the bible as the literal word of God
• God was seen in everyday events
• Name your natural phenomenon– according to the Puritans, it
happens at God’s command (where is science in all this?)
• Puritans believed in complete divine direction
Puritans on Mankind
Puritans saw themselves as pilgrims (physical and spiritual journey)
Built a new society in a vast wilderness with the goal of living closer to
God (Governor Winthrop’s “City on a Hill”– Bradford bought in
Believed in being industrious, temperate, and plain
Believed that man is inherently evil, sinful, and corrupt
Puritans on Work & Money
• Idle hands are the devil’s playground
• Good works make good men (grace)
• Competent in business
Puritans on Nature
• Frightened of nature
• Evil lurks in the forest
• Connotations of darkness and wilderness vs. church
and town
Puritan Women
Domestic Sphere (vs. Public Sphere)
Education not a priority (Think of the purpose of education to a Puritan—
why were women largely left uneducated??)
Like, freak
of nature.
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
•People who had grace were among the “elect” (saved).
•People who did not have grace were among the
“unregenerate” (damned).
Grace: The Puritan Ideal
•The presence of grace was demonstrated by a
person’s outward behavior. People with grace
•personal responsibility
Why is this a little sketchy
to we cynics?
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
•Every person was responsible for reading and
understanding the Bible.
Puritan Literature
What the Puritans Wrote
•Sermons, essays, and poems on spiritual and religious
•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
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
•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?
•The Age of Faith gradually gave way to the Age of
•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 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
We got all that from the Puritans!
What Have You Learned?
1. Puritans believed that religion was a personal, inner
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
Read the biography of Anne Bradstreet on page 27. In your notes,
answer the following questions as complete thoughts (abbreviation
and shorthand is okay):
How did Shakespeare influence Anne Bradstreet’s work?
How was her work different from Shakespeare’s?
Describe the difference in roles between Anne and her father and
husband. What were their principal responsibilities? Was this typical of
Puritan families at the time?
Why is it unsurprising that Anne, a Puritan, never sought recognition for
her poetry?
Which of Bradstreet’s poems are the most popular today? Is this fitting?
HOMEWORK: Read, on page 29, Anne Bradstreet’s “Here Follow Some
Verses upon the Burning of Our House.”