- Published: October 24, 2022
- Updated: October 24, 2022
- University / College: University of Birmingham
- Level: Secondary School
- Language: English
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Were the Puritans Puritanical? What was the purpose of most Puritan restrictions on dress? As the suggests, the Puritans were dedicated to leading a pure way of life focused on avoiding excess and debauchery. The stereotype of the Puritan is an individual dressed completely in black, floor-length garb which covers every aspect of the body. Every Puritan would have one of these outfits, but this would only be for the Sabbath and mourning, and actually the Puritans had a wider variety of clothes than is traditionally thought.
Many of the Puritan restrictions on dress were actually focused on the class of the individual concerned. Puritans believed it would anger God if one dressed differently to their station in life; it would be like lying to God to dress extravagantly when one was a member of a lower class. Many of the people who were in the upper-class of Puritans could and would wear gold, silver, and lace.
Whilst this is true, most of the other restrictions on dress were to preserve the modesty of the wearer, although it was not as dull, plain and conservative as the stereotype. Women were expected to cover their head and most of their body.
What was the Puritan attitude toward sex?
As previously mentioned, the Puritans placed a great value on the pure things in life, and part of this belief was an understanding of the Bible as more-or-less literal. In this case, they believed that man should not have too much fun, enjoyment or laughter in this life in case it hinder his ability to experience these things in the next, and sex was part of this. Sex was part of this, but it did not mean that sex was banned in society. The Puritans knew that people of both genders have sexual desires, and they also knew that these needed to be fulfilled. All the Puritans asked was that sexual intercourse be undertaken prayerfully with recognition that it is God that has bestowed these pleasures on them. However, it is worth noting that they did believe in having sex with respect and not enjoying it to excess.
What was the Puritan view of human nature? How did that effect them?
The central view of human nature in the Puritan faith is that it is prone to sin and this is an inescapable factor of life. Everything that comes from the body is sinful or disgusting. They believed that because of this tendency to sin, they must be controlled by a strong hand that helped them to curtail these sinful lusts and become more like God and live a purer life. The reason that they broke off from the English church is that they believed that this was corrupt, and they needed to escape this to try and counterbalance some of the things that human nature provoked.
In life, the Puritans were expected to avoid sin as much as possible and become hardworking and industrious people. They usually worked long hours in respected jobs, which has lead to the phrase Puritan work ethic, reflecting their ability to work hard and in a pure manner. They also expected moderation in all aspects; dress, drinking and gambling. These things were not outlawed, as the stereotype suggests, but were not actively encouraged.
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