Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Steady Hands

"They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world. We have inherited this belief, and it has helped and hurt us" (Miller 5).

What do think this passage means? What is the "candle"? Do you agree that modern Americans have inherited this Puritan attitude?

14 Comments:

Blogger Pieter O said...

I think that the "candle to light the world" is the thought of self-superiority. It makes us want to help other "lesser" peoples, meaning we enforce our culture and beliefs onto the other group. We also think that other people need our help, and we "go to their rescue."

1:51 PM  
Blogger Andie R said...

I think it means that they believed they alone were enlightened on the subject of religion and that only they were going about worshipping God the right way. The "candle" is their religion. It has helped bring them together and keep them tight- knit but it has also hurt them by things like the hysteria and unwavering faith in the supernatural. Modern Americans have inherited the attitude but on a different subject, not religion but democracy. We try to convert other countries just like the Purtians tried to convert people like the Native Americans and the people in Europe.

1:52 PM  
Blogger christineT said...

I think that this passage means that if we are careful to follow God and his ways that the candle of our beliefs will stay lit. For the Puritans it might have meant to be good and follow all of their rule without slipping or God would put out the flame on your candle, taking away your chance of going to heaven. I think that we have kind of have inherited this belief, but we are a little less extreme with it and if there is still belief in God in the world, then he will keep our world good and keep the light on it.

1:54 PM  
Blogger matt l said...

Personally, I believe the meaning of this passage is that the people were sort of arrogant. They thought that the world revolved around their lives. The passage, "the candle that would light the world", shows how the puritans thought that they were above or better than all others. The candle is their religion that their lives revolve around. Everything the puritans did was controlled by religion, so the candle is what they believe they have to offer the world. I do think modern americans have inherited this belief. We sometimes get so caught up in our own lives that nothing else in the world really matters.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Logan J said...

I think the candle in terms of Puritans is simply the purity they both maintain and spread. They felt that their belief of devoutness alone was the cure for the entire world's problems- hense "the candle that would light the world."

Modern Americans have inherited this to a certain degree. It is human nature to believe that if you think something is right, that others should think the same thing. To a certain extent we all have that same righteous arrogance about ourselves.

If you don't think you agree with this statement, you are proving me right by disagreeing with me and thinking that you are right.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

The "candle" referred to is, very simply, power. In this day it would be economic and political, but in the days of the Puritans it was religious power. The Puritans had a strict moral code that they believed would keep the Devil away--this belief was upheld by all, and those who chose to ignore it or chose not to follow it were punished not only by the highest authority figures, but by their neighbors. Today, as Americans, we are a world superpower economically. Also, by looking at foreign policy, we are encouraging the spread of democratic republics, the government system we have. Are we not saying that democracy is the "best" way to run a country? Are we not setting ourselves up as an example of how the world should be? So in this way, we have inherited the "candle idea from the Puritans.

1:55 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

"They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world. We have inherited this belief, and it has helped and hurt us" (Miller 5).

The candle in this passage is the Puritans strict belief system. Their way of thinking that everything not normal is an act of superstition has helped them in a way by giving everyone a clear way of thinking, even if it is wrong. It has hurt them severely though because everything they cannot explain, which is a lot, is all placed in the superstition category. This makes for witchcraft to be easily believed because it was not normal to dance in the world and very abnormal to have hallucinations so there must be some invisible force at work. Also, the Puritans strict belief about heaven and earth helps them be cleansed in their religion but hurts them because everything “bad” is an act of the devil, such as dancing, which just adds fuel to the witchcraft plot.

1:56 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

"They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world. We have inherited this belief, and it has helped and hurt us" (Miller 5).

The candle in this passage is the Puritans strict belief system. Their way of thinking that everything not normal is an act of superstition has helped them in a way by giving everyone a clear way of thinking, even if it is wrong. It has hurt them severely though because everything they cannot explain, which is a lot, is all placed in the superstition category. This makes for witchcraft to be easily believed because it was not normal to dance in the world and very abnormal to have hallucinations so there must be some invisible force at work. Also, the Puritans strict belief about heaven and earth helps them be cleansed in their religion but hurts them because everything “bad” is an act of the devil, such as dancing, which just adds fuel to the witchcraft plot.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Amy O. said...

I believe that this "candle" Miller speaks of is the Puritan religion that the people had. It has helped us in the sense that having something to believe in adds hope and purpose to life. It also could be bad because sometimes people could get so wrapped up in their own beliefs that they become very judgemental with prejudice against people without similar beliefs.

I agree that, to some extent, modern Americans have inherited the Puritan attitude. The country's religion is Christianity, after all, and the fact that America is so advanced compared to other countries add to the ongoing theme of prejudice and judgement that went on in a smaller scale during the Puritan's time.

1:57 PM  
Blogger katie_r said...

I agree with what pieter o said, because to the person holding the "candle", that is what will light up the world. Although to the people they think they are helping, it probably isn't. I definatly think we have inherited this Puritan attitude, as we try to "help" other countries set up stable governments, but even on a smaller scale, as we try to help people just in our community. We think we know what is best for them; we do what, if we were in their situation, we may want someone else to do to us. But to them, they feel like we are intrusive and pushy, and they don't like it.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

This particular passage hints that the Puritans thought their religion was the "right" religion, and that they were the ones who had to enlighten the world as to its existance so they could abandon their own faiths and come to the "good" god. I think many people involved in religious practices secretly think this at some time or another, regardless of whether they will admit it. Yes, we have inherited pride and arrogance of this kind, although I'm not so sure it came from just the Puritans. The only quality that makes their pride in religion any different from the other groups of their time is that they defended it fiercely and mulishly, allowing some strain of their pride to survive even today.

1:58 PM  
Blogger brian k said...

The people of Salem believed they were the chosen people of god and it was their purpose in life to "light" up the world and convert people to their beliefs. When hard times would hit them, they would be helped through their belief that god would take care of them and always watch them. However, whenever something strange would happen, they would immediately turn to god for help and blame the Devil. This hurt them in the long run because they were so used to relying on god that when something happened they might not have taken action and instead turned to their beliefs to see them through.
I don't believe we have inherited their lifestyle because we usually tend to like to take matters into out own hands. If we don't like something, we do something about it.

1:59 PM  
Blogger nicci c said...

I think that this passsage means that the Puritans thought that they could free the world of evil through their beliefs in God. I also think it impies that they thought they were the only ones who could "purify" the world. I think that we in America might see ourselves as more powerful or important than those elsewhere so we think that we are the ones who can get rid of anyone who will bring harm to the world. It also seems that we think that the only way to be is American and those who aren't are our enemies.

2:00 PM  
Blogger anam said...

I agree with Peter in that Americans always consider themselves to be number one in everything and more privileged than other nations around the world and often try to take it upon themselves to aid the "underprivileged" countries. I think that we have inherited this attitude from the Puritans because a lot of times Americans tend to think that since our country's systems have worked for a couple hundred years, that we should take it upon ourselves to share our ideas with the rest of the world, but instead of sharing our thoughts we push it onto them.

2:02 PM  

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