Follow TV Tropes


New England Puritan

Go To

"The Puritans, our ancestors. People so uptight, the English kicked them out."
Robin Williams, Live on Broadway

Culturally, New England differed from the other thirteen colonies in that it was founded by religious dissidents, whereas the rest were mostly settled for economic gain. Only Maine and New Hampshire weren't founded by religious adherents, and both were absorbed by Massachusetts. Due to this, the church became a big part of New England life and the region was historically a hotbed of Protestant fundamentalism. As a result, New Englanders were often stereotyped as pious and evangelical. Another stereotype was that New Englanders were rabble rousers; and, given that the region was a locus for revolutionary and later abolitionist activity, there is some Truth in Television to this. Expect the Pilgrims and the Salem Witch Trials to be referenced when this trope is brought up.

Ironically enough, modern-day New England tends to be stereotyped as being both very liberal and secular, with the Deep South being the region now associated with "Bible Belt" religiosity. Adding to the irony, the modern Christian denomination most connected to the Puritans, the United Church of Christ, is highly progressive. Meanwhile, the largest denomination in the South, the Southern Baptist Convention — a bastion of Southern Bible-thumping religious conservatism — traces its roots to the Baptists of old Rhode Island, who were simultaneously more austerely Puritan than the Puritans of Massachusetts and Connecticut while also more freethinking and, well, liberal (for 17th-century New England, at any rate). This is largely due to later waves of Catholic immigration, as the Evangelical Protestants moved westward (and sent missionaries southward), but it also has to do with genuinely egalitarian elements in Puritan thought. However, this trope will still pop up, often in Historical Fiction and whenever Lovecraft Country is invoked.

A Sub-Trope of The Fundamentalist and Hollywood New England. Will often involve a Sinister Minister.


    open/close all folders 


  • The two people portrayed in the Grant Wood painting "American Gothic" are often presumed to be this. However, the house that inspired the painting was in Iowa putting it in the Midwest, a region incidentally settled by New Englanders.

    Comic Books 

  • B.P.R.D.: In "Dark Waters", the BPRD team is sent to the small Massachusetts town of Shiloh, where a drained pond revealed the perfectly-preserved corpses of three young women in colonial dress. It turns out that during the Salem witch hysteria, the town found the three girls guilty of witchcraft and drowned them in the pond, exhorted by a man named Uriah Blackwood (in full Puritan dress, including the hat). In the modern day, his equally-fanatized Generation Xerox descendant steals the corpses to symbolically drown them again as witches (and empowered by the accumulated shame and guilt of the town that's been festering in the pond mud), but fails when the burial rites are performed to allow the girls' spirits passage to the afterlife (Pastor Blackwood is dragged underwater and drowned by the corpses).

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Mary Lou Barebone is a descendant of witch hunters from the Salem Witch Trials. She and her adopted children (who have Puritan-style names) compose an anti-witchcraft society who mostly get ignored in 1920s New York until an Obscurus kills a newspaper baron's son at a public event.
  • The main characters in The VVitch are a family who got expelled from their colonial-era town because the father's religious views were too extreme even for their Puritan community, forcing them out into a remote homestead. Once an evil witch starts targeting them, his rigid faith winds up merely digging him and his family in a deeper hole.


  • The Handmaid's Tale: The dystopian novel is set in New England in the near future and it's implied the fundamentalist Christian movement that took control of the state had originated there as well. Republic of Gilead only controls parts of the former USA and the republic has a Christian fundamentalist theocratic totalitarian regime that arose as a response to a world-wide fertility crisis. The Bible (or at least, the parts of it useful to those in power) is interpreted very literally and the society is patriarchal to the extreme.
  • Maine native Stephen King uses this trope a lot.
    • Carrie: Margaret White is a fundamentalist to the extreme, believing sex even within marriage is wrong and routinely going door to door to evangelize. This results in her and her daughter being outcasts in their own town.
    • The Mist: Mrs. Carmody is primarily known around town for her rabid faith. However, she ends up getting a following after a mysterious mist envelops the town, trapping the survivors in a supermarket.
    • Under the Dome: Lester Coggins, pastor of the Christ the Holy Redeemer church. He engages in self-flagellation and believes the Dome is a sign from God. It looks like he's being set up as an antagonist like Margaret White and Mrs. Carmody. He turns out to be a Red Herring, though, as he gets killed by Big Jim less than a third of the way through the book, when he tells Jim he feels that he must confess to the congregation that they've been running a meth lab.
    • Cycle of the Werewolf: Lester Lowe is the town's Baptist minister. He's also the werewolf that's been terrorizing the town. While at first he doesn't realize this, once he finds out he's a werewolf, he uses his faith to justify his actions.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: School teacher Ichabod Crane is originally from Connecticut. He's portrayed as superstitious and easily willing to believe folk legends. It's implied his romantic rival Braum Bones exploits this in order to drive him out of town. Author Washington Irving was a native of New York, so it's possible this was meant as a Take That! towards New England.
  • Night World: It's revealed in The Chosen that when he was human, Quinn lived in a Puritan colony in Massachusetts. His father was the town reverend, although Quinn himself wasn't nearly as pious. The vampiric Redfern family lived nearby and were rumored to be witches or demons, although Quinn remarks that people said stuff like that if you so much as smiled in church. Consequently, Reverend Quinn and the townsfolk were quick to turn on the Redferns when they learned of their true natures, with Quinn getting caught in the middle.
  • The Scarlet Letter: Set in Puritan Massachusetts, the novel examines this trope. The protagonist, Hester Prynne, is a young woman who had a child out of wedlock. For this, Hester is forced to be publicly humiliated and must wear a red letter A on her clothes.
  • "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about a Puritan man from the Plymouth colony, who goes out for a walk and runs into the Devil. The Devil tempts the man to evil, showing that many respected and seemingly-pious members of the community are under his sway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Thanks: This applies to everyone in Plymouth, especially Reverend Goodacre. When James and Polly see him for marriage counseling, he suggests an exorcism.


  • The Last Podcast on the Left: In their episode on the Boston Strangler, they note that contrary to the modern stereotype of Boston, Boston of The '60s was fairly socially conservative. As such, the sexual nature of the crimes contributed to mass hysteria throughout the city.


  • The Crucible: Set during the Salem Witch trials, this play uses Puritan Society and the trials as an allegory for McCarthyism. The witch hysteria is kicked off by teenaged girls lying to cover up their mischief and results in a religious tribunal being set up to investigate the matter. Soon, people accuse others of witchcraft to settle personal scores.
  • In 1776, part of the reason John Adams is so unpopular is because he's from Massachusetts, which is seen as the land of Soapbox Sadies.
  • The Children's Hour takes place in early 1900s New England. The plot revolves around a scandal caused by two female teachers being Mistaken for Gay.

    Video Games 
  • The Salem chapter of Fate/Grand Order is set on the eve of the Witch trials, and shows how the town was a powder keg even before a Demon God started meddling in history, including bringing in Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who historically died decades before the trials.
  • The sub-plot of Little Hope concerns a small community of Puritans experiencing a Salem-esque bout of anti-witch hysteria at the urging of the local priest who is of course a hypocrite. It is also entirely a hallucination.

    Web Video 
  • Atun Shei Films: Rakich's character the "Witchfinder General (of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay)" is a staunch and intense Puritan, played for humor.

    Western Animation 

  • Family Guy: Whenever the show takes a shot at religion, the people of Quahog, Rhode Island will be shown to have a fundamentalist streak. A notable example of this is in "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" where Brian is revealed to be an atheist. He is shunned by the town and the local news channel reports on it, comparing him to Hitler.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Parodied in the episode "Which Witch is Which?". In the episode Timmy travels back in time to the days of Dimmsdale's original founding in the mid 1600s, complete with Witch Hunting hysteria. This is despite the fact that the town in question was previously implied to be set in California (though it isn't the only time Dimmsdale has been placed on the East Coast), and the Witch Hunters are so gullible they can be told that a tree stump is a Witch and opt to execute it, ironically by the only actual Witch in the town. That said, this is still bad news for Timmy as he quickly makes enemies with said Witch in disguise who quickly gets him branded a Witch and summarily tossed in the nearby lake while chained up.
  • The Owl House: Philip Wittebane's all but stated to be status as this forms the core part of his motivation as Emperor Belos. Philip was born sometime before the year 1613 when he moved to the small settlement of Gravesfield, Connecticut with his older brother Caleb. While in Gravesfield, Philip's attempts to integrate with the local population resulted in him getting fully indoctrinated into the Witch Hunt hysteria of the time. When Caleb secretly eloped with the Witch Evelyn, Philip went off to "save" him, only to violently murder Caleb in a fit of jealous rage when he broke with tradition and had children with Evelyn, thereby irrevocably "tainting" Caleb in Philip's eyes. His overall clothing is very much in the colonial style that was common with much of the populace at the time, and in "Thanks to Them", he even states that all of his actions are for the good of people's souls just before he returns to the Demon Realm to finish his witch hunt.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "The Wife Aquatic", where the Simpsons go to a New England fishing village that Marge loved going to in her youth. However, in the present day, the town went into decline because of overfishing. By the end of the episode, Homer and the local fishing fleet discover that the fish population has recovered. The town is excited at the prospect of a renewed fishing industry, but Lisa proceeds to lecture the town on the dangers of overfishing. She ends the lecture by telling the townsfolk to "Repent!". Afterwards she says she always wanted to say that in a New England Church.
    • "Treehouse of Horror VIII": The segment "Easy-Bake Coven" is a parody of The Crucible. It's set in 17th-century New-England-like Springfield. Edna Krabapple is a fallen woman and wears a scarlet A on her chest as a reference to The Scarlet Letter. 75 women have been processed and burned at the stake as witches. Marge pleads everyone to come to their senses and says that this witch hunt is turning into a circus. Naturally, she's accused of witchcraft. It turns out she really is a Wicked Witch, and flies off on her broomstick to her family's and the townsfolk's horror (well, except for Bart, who's more amazed than horrified).
      Bart: Well I'll be a son of a witch.