Analysis Of Puritanism In The Works Of American Literature

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

Anthropology, the study of human societies and cultures and their developments, is almost always directly correlated with sociology which is the study of the structure and functioning of a society. The Puritans’ overarching anthropology was that God is completely sovereign and that man gets attached to materialist, temporary things on earth instead of focusing on the eternal and infinite things in heaven.

This can be seen in the written excerpts from this time period such as Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Edward Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Their works and beliefs in man’s anthropology shaped their sociology which was where their society didn’t focus on materialistic things, but instead pursued a perfect, holy life where they focused on eternal things in heaven and their relationship with God.

In Anne Bradstreet’s “Upon the Burning of Our House”, she alludes to the fact that she isn’t bothered that her house is burning down. Her anthropology is that man gets too attached to materialistic things; she believes that her house “was his own: it was not [hers]” (Bradstreet, 17). Bradstreet knows that God gave her that house and took it away for a reason; Bradstreet is content with what she has, her “wealth is enough, [she] needs no more” (51). Her anthropology dictates her sociology which is that society’s relationship with God is greater that society’s relationship with its own members.

Cotton Mather believed that man is sinful and dishonest but is able to be saved through God. He wanted to create an idealistic society by attempting to bring a “Heavenly CITY… out of Heaven, from GOD.” (Mather, 14). What Mather saw in New England was people focused on materialistic belongings and were forgetting that their lives should be dedicated to building up their eternal wealth in heaven. Mather’s anthropology gave him an idea to shape society and life around him to create a “A CITY; where God shall dwell with men, God Himself shall be with them, and we shall Inherit all things” (14).

Mather wants society to be modeled after society in heaven where there is unity and where “all shall be done with all possible integrity” (14). Edward Taylor follows the same anthropological standpoint as Mather as he believes that man alone is useless but with God working through them, man can become an instrument. He shows this in his poem Huswifery. He wants God to take over and fulfill his life: “Make me, O Lord, Thy spinning-wheel complete” (line 1). Taylor is willing to completely let go of control over his mind and body and wants God to take the wheel. Taylor sees man as cotton and God as the loom that spins it into a material that is useful in the world; in raw form, man is nothing but a material until he is “clothed in Holy robes for glory” (Taylor, 18).

Jonathan Edwards also has a very similar view on Puritan life and what people crave. In his Safety Sermon, he describes that Man are always looking for happiness, but can never find. it. Ultimately, the only way for your soul to stop searching and craving it is to be with Christ: “The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity.”

Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Edward Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, all mostly agree that living a Puritan lifestyle is the best lifestyle. Instead of focusing on puny materialistic things, you should pursue a perfect, holy life with God and keep trying to improve your relationship with him. Being with God is the only true meaning of life, and life after heaven.

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