The Devil Made Me Do It Analysis
“The Devil Made Me Do It” is an interesting book written by Juliet Haines Mofford concerning the transgressions committed by the Puritans and the subsequent retributions. The author is a famous historian, a researcher and also she is a museum educator who has written many educative articles, journals, and books. In the book “The Devil Made Me Do It” the author presents the accounts of the nation’s original criminals. She discusses and analyzes how the courts disciple these criminals for their offenses which included Sabbath breaking wanton dalliances and also debt (Mofford and Juliet, p.12). During that time of the Puritans, the colonial laws were broken easily, and thus the wrongdoers who broke them were severely treated. Mofford examines the historical cases from the period when the alleged criminals habitually pleaded that, “the devil made me do it!” This is the term which most of the offenders used to seek sympathy that it was not their intention of committing the crime.
However, this seems to not be a valid reason according to this book since most of the individuals can commit the crimes intentionally and still claim they were influenced by the devil (Mofford and Juliet, p.23). The colonies expected the Puritans to live and abide by a sacred covenant made by God for them to form Christian settlements in the world. The thesis of the author is showing the life of the Puritans both the straight and the wicked one and also elaborating how crime and punishment were regarded during the early centuries. The author portrays the evil things which were being committed by the Puritans and also presents the penalties which the offenders were subjected to.
As the book depicts, there existed some laws which were designed to reflect Puritans ideas of confirming God’s blessing upon the community on the community and also towards maintaining law and order in the entire society. The Puritans were courageous, but they were also prejudiced of others who acted outside of the saintly “norm.” consequently, they were very conservative as well as being obsessed with conformity. However, it eventually turns out that they were romantic to their loved ones and occasionally they were practicing bad behaviors. According to Juliet Mofford, the early settlers had lives attached in Old England. They brought many of their beliefs and customs to the New World for example magic and folklore which are characterized to the Middle Ages. The individuals who were primarily born in England and later settled into the Puritan settlements subsequently after the former settlers were commonly less religiously-oriented. Consequently, this led to glitches in the society whereby it proved hard for the spiritual leaders of the Puritan societies who were mandated with the responsibility of keeping conformity with the community as well as creating harmony in the families. Therefore this shows how the Puritans were more saintly-oriented or well behaved compared to the contemporary counterparts.
By examining the social and religious life of the Puritans, Mofford presents some controversial issues which were there at those times, and some are still experienced today. The topics include gender, race as well as social status. The way the seventeenth and the eighteenth-century communities in England dealt with the lawbreakers for example murder may appear to be inhuman to today’s society, for instance, the lawbreakers, especially of the serious crimes, were severely punished and treated as outcasts. The punishment was in the form of hanging which was regarded as a community entertainment, and several excited crowds attended it. This shows how they respected the outlined rules and regulations and disvalued human life (Mofford and Juliet, p.33). Moreover some of how the offenders were punished for example by public humiliation whereby the offenders were aligned in the streets and harassed while being thrown some stones may not seem to be severe in today’s culture. However, some of these humiliation techniques have been applied in the present day movies where it looks an amusing custom.
The manner in which the Puritans were being punished for adultery, public drunkenness, breaking of the Sabbath, crooked dealings, blasphemy, witchcraft and crooked dealings among other delinquencies, portrays a culture that tried, by all means, possible to bully the civilian by establishing a perfect state that no individual could achieve. Generally speaking some of the crimes which were small ones but the punishments and penalties were harsh. It is vivid that the individuals who proclaimed themselves to be the New Englanders recognized vividly well that a man due to his nature is prone to committing some errors and crimes since he is a sinful creature. However, they seemed not to care and thus they believed that through pressuring the society to conform to Christianity beliefs by subjecting severe punishments to the offenders would result in a more disciplined and godly state. Consequently, in the contemporary times, there exist some thoughtless and arrogant bullies who mostly are leaders who intend to turn the individuals’ lives with an interest of creating a perfect society like the way the Puritans were subjected (Mofford and Juliet, p.46). However, considering the current world we are living in this seems quite impossible and what these individuals are doing is creating unattainable goals, as the modern individuals appear to be more civilized.
The author discusses that getting pregnant before marriage was not common at that time, and however, the community felt comfortable with this affair as long as the couple got married in due period. Moreover, individuals were uncomfortable about sex before getting married because, in the Puritan community, any couple whose baby arrived nine months after marriage which was led by a magistrate was subjected to be fined for fornication. The result was being punished for example by being fined some amount of money or being presented to the public for chastisement, and afterward, they were accepted back to the society, and they were forgiven their sins (Nelson and Dana, p.31). All these actions showed how the communities upheld their social-cultural as well as religious beliefs, contrary to the current societies. This is entirely different from today’s society. Many individuals are getting pregnant the way they like and with who they intend to get pregnant with since there is no set-out rules or punishments characterized with it.
As described from the book, the Puritans lived by the rules and regulations which governed all their actions. They were subjected to this theocracy which they were expected to abide by, and those who went against them were severely punished for example by being stoned in public, or they were hanged. “The devil made me do it” represents the notion which the offenders gave the magistrates as well as to the clergymen of seeking sympathy for their wrongdoings. Therefore as described above, Mofford work is exceptionally vital in showing how the evidence of crimes as well as punishment in the earlier centuries. The book is also useful as it tends to suggest that for every sin committed a penalty should follow it. This is an excellent element to create a good society which realizes the cost of crime. The book presents some exciting stories full of drama and it relatively more educative and I can recommend any individual interested in learning about crimes and their punishments in society.
Mofford, Juliet Haines. Devil Made Me Do It!. Globe Pequot Press, 2012.
Mofford, Juliet Haines. Devil Made Me Do It!: Crime and Punishment in Early New England. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.
Nelson, Dana D. “Economics of Morality and Power: Reading ‘Race’in Two Colonial Contexts.” A Mixed Race: Ethnicity in Early America: 19-38.