Puritanism Background Project
Create A Lesson – You are the Teacher


Often in literature characters are influenced by the religious and social customs of the period in which they live. By researching various aspects of Puritan life during the seventeenth century in America you will develop insight into the behavior of particular literary characters in The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter. You will also see the parallels to modern day life that makes these works of literature so timeless.

The Task

  • In preparation for reading Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter you will be expected to research various events and aspects of Puritan life in the 1600s. You will also explore the authors' biographies and relate them to the literary themes to be studied.

  • You will use the Web to obtain information on the following topics:

+ Daily Life in Salem in the 1600s
+ Puritanism and Government
+ Witchcraft
+ Witch-hunts (both 17th century and modern)
+ Witch trials of 1692
+ Biography of Arthur Miller
+ Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne

You will be assigned to a group that will plan a presentation to instruct your classmates about your particular topic of study. Your presentation may include role-playing, costumes, panel discussions, Power Point, Keynote, or any other effective method.

Your group will also be responsible for submitting three questions that can be used on a quiz about your topic.
The following are some good sites to try:

The Process

Group 1 Daily Life in Salem
Answer the following questions about daily life in the 1600s in Puritan New England.

1. Describe the clothing worn by men and women in Salem. What types of fabrics were used?
2. How did their clothing support their religious views?
3. Describe the types of homes that probably existed in Salem. Explain what a palisade is and why it was necessary.
4. Describe the family life of Puritans?
5. Describe a Puritan meal.
6. How did their food and eating habits support their religious views?
7. What was Puritan education like?

Group 2 Puritanism and Government
Answer the following questions about Puritanism.

1. What are the basic Puritan beliefs? List at least five.
2. What is predestination?
3. How would Puritans view those of other faiths?
4. Why did Puritans come to the New World?
5. List five forces undermining Puritanism in the 1600s.
6. What is a theocracy and how would it affect the view of Salem residents toward witchcraft?

Group 3 Witchcraft
Answer the following questions about witchcraft.

1. Describe maleficium and theological witchcraft.
2. Explain the early legal concepts of witchcraft?
3. Which type of person was most likely to be considered a witch?
4. How did property ownership contribute to accusations of witchcraft?
5. Explain ergotism and its relation to the unusual behaviors displayed by those possessed.
6. Explain how stress and clinical hysteria could account for some of the unusual behaviors observed.
7. In what forms does witchcraft exist today?
8. How are modern day witches treated?

Group 4 Witch Trials of 1692 in Salem
Answer the following questions about the Salem Witch Trials.

1. Who were these people and what happened to them in 1692? Giles Corey Martha Corey John Proctor Sarah Osbourne What was especially bizarre and unfair about the accusation of Rebecca Nurse?
2. What tragedy befell Ann Putnam to make her suspicious of Rebecca Nurse? (text p.88 Understanding the Crucible)
3. What personal goals did Thomas Putnam have in accusing others of witchcraft? (text p.83 Understanding the Crucible )
4. Look at the timeline. What behaviors started to appear among the villagers?
5. Who were Betty

Group 5 Witch-hunts
Answer the following questions about witch-hunts.

1. Define witch-hunt.
2. Who was Joseph McCarthy and what did he investigate? Why were Americans concerned about Communism during the 1950s?
3. What was the House Un-American Activities Committee? How were those brought before this committee affected by their appearance there?
4. What happened when the McCarthy hearings were televised and he began to accuse Army officers of being Communists?
5. How was McCarthyism a witch-hunt?
6. How might the events in the 1692 witch-hunts be compared to those of the McCarthy era in the 1950s?
7. Describe some international incidents that could be considered witch-hunts. (For example, the Japanese internment)

Group 6 Biography of Arthur Miller
Answer the following questions about Arthur Miller.

1. Give some details about Miller's early life and family.
2. What were his major achievements and awards?
3. Describe Miller's appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
4. Describe the effects of the investigation on Miller's writing of The Crucible.
5. How did Miller's social conscience affect his work?
6. What common theme or themes appear in his works?

Group 7 Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Answer the following questions about Nathaniel Hawthorne.

1. Give some details about Hawthorne's early life and family.
2. How did his Puritan heritage influence him?
3. How did Hawthorne perceive nature?
4. What was his opinion of women writers?
5. What are some common themes that appear in his works?

Your presentation will receive a group grade based on the following:

  • Your presentation must answer all the questions your group has been assigned.
  • Your answers must be accurate and complete.
  • You should also show some creativity and maintain the interest of your classmates.
  • You will be graded on a scale of 50 points.

Your presentation is worth 40 points and your submission of three quiz questions is worth 10 points.

When you have completed this assignment you should have some insight into Puritan society in New England during the seventeenth century. You will understand the background that leads to the action of the characters in The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter.

Webquest found at: http://www.jerichoschools.org/hs/webquest/crucible.htm#Introduction