The Way We Lived - Chapter 4: Puritan Society
Today, America is thought of as a country of freedom. As a foreigner here, it is quite hard to imagine that there was a real time in this country when people were not considered individuals but a part of society. Because whenever I learned about Korean society, Korean people traditionally tend to care and be conscious of others more than western people who are more individualized.
In this current society, there is a clear boundary between the public and private sphere. Individuals can choose to go into either the public sphere or the private sphere. For example, marriage depends upon an individual’s choice. An individual can go and vote for whoever she or he supports. The government or the community might be able to influence on the individual’s decision, but cannot actively interfere with or control her or his decision.
However, in Puritan society, the boundary between the public and the private sphere was blurred. Even though Puritans followed and behaved by their religion of their free will, they could hardly be free from their community. Puritan society saw an individual not as an independent subject, but a member of a community. They did not really recognize the concept of ‘individual’. Most of all, they, the Puritan individuals were also bound within family. The unit which ran a community in Puritan society was family.
You would go to vote on your own in the modern society. It is an absolutely private act. In Puritan society, however, not an individual but a family had one vote, while members of the church were also given to each family. Many things were determined by the identity of the family, not the individual’s accomplishment. Intermarriage was also frequent so that they could strengthen the power of their own family and widen their own kinship groups. They could obtain political and economic benefits from these close relationships.
Since family played a really big part in the Puritan society, there are some noticeable aspects in Puritan family. Economically, family members including children had their own job to do. That is, they were all treated as a labor force. Socially, they had duties to take care of their community, especially the social minorities like orphans or the elderly. Educationally, a family was almost a vocational institution to teach prayer, scriptural reading, and how to read even to servants and apprentices. Children were commonly sent to the other families to work as servants or apprentices. Quite strict discipline was applied to children in Puritan society.
Patriarchy was typical in Puritan society. The head of the family, who was mostly a father with authority derived from his landed property and craft skill, had duties to lead and support his own family. The woman