Puritanism had a profound effect on the establishment of America and on the literature that came out of the Puritanical time period. The religious beliefs and lifestyles of Puritans greatly influence the literature that they produced, and many of the characteristics of the writing came as a direct result to the beliefs and teachings of the religious system.
Symbolism in Puritanical Writing
One of the characteristics of Puritanical writing is the Puritans belief that God's hand could be found in everyday occurrences. This led to a large amount of symbolism in literature. For example, what to others may seem like a simple paper cut, might, to a Puritan, mean that God is warning them to stop reading a particular book. Such signs and signals greatly increased the use of symbols in Puritanical writing.
Self Examination in Puritanical Writing
Most Puritans greatly valued education and rational thinking, and because of this and their belief that God expected much out of their lifestyles, many puritanical authors may have been inspired to reflect inwardly. This self-examination may have become a way to express inward thoughts on paper, thus resulting in autobiographical, non-fiction and fiction works of literary art that revealed the wickedness of the self and the perfect righteousness of God.
Characteristics of Plain Style
One component of Puritan writing was a genre called Plain style. This type of literature was meant to show readers that Christ alone was righteous enough to be Savior and that people, symbolized by the characters of the story, would never be good enough to save themselves. This type of Puritan writing, along with sermons and lectures, brought about classics such as "sinner in the Hands of an Angry God" by Jonathon Edwards and William Bradford's "Of Plymouth Plantation."
Betterment in Puritanical Literature
Because of the work ethics of most Puritans, their writing spoke of diligence and purposefulness. Puritans believed that hard work was godly and because they believed that only an elect few would enter the kingdom of heaven, they were often attempting to prove themselves as righteous through hard work. While working was a large theme in their writing, many Puritanical pieces were well thought out and examined in an effort to achieve earthly perfection.