Trees of Temptation

The Bible is an influential text that presents in self in a variety of American literature in the form of allusions and motifs. The motif of a tree is important in the Bible, and its significance has found its way into other great works of literature. The first and most famous appearance of a tree in the Bible is the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden where it signified temptation and sin. In the Bible, it says, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (King James’ Bible, Genesis 3:6). The temptation of the tree is evident in this excerpt as it voices Eve’s desire to eat the forbidden fruit. This craving was caused by the tree and its fruits, therefore solidifying the tree’s representation of temptation. These trials of temptation can be found in A White Heron by Sarah Jewett. Sylvia is given the opportunity to betray the location of a rare white heron to a hunter she met for some money. Her consideration of doing so is represented by the tree she must climb to spot this bird. Like the Bible, the tree in this story represents temptation as well. She sees the white heron from high up in the trees and she considers sharing this information with the hunter, but she chooses against it. The use of this biblical allusion helps establish Sylvia as a strong female character because the opportunity to gain some money and the attention from the young man tempts her, but in the end, she chooses to stay loyal nature. This motif also expresses itself in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester and Dimmesdale meet many times in the woods, a place where they are surrounded by trees. In the woods, they express their love and longing for each other, and their desire to run away. The temptation of being together, even though it is morally wrong for both of them, presents itself in the intimate setting of the woods. The trees in this setting emphasize the temptation of sin that they are both facing and succumb to. The Bible and its motifs have greatly impacted many works of literature.

Trees are still representing temptation in more modern works of literature. For example, in the hit broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, trees are a reoccurring image that implicitly explains the inner motivations of the protagonist. Evan Hansen, a shy teen with social anxiety, finds an opportunity to live the life he never had by rewriting his past to include a boy who recently committed suicide. In this song, Evan narrates a scene in which he and this boy supposedly climb trees in an orchard the frequent. The climbing of the trees represents Evan’s temptation to lie in order to alleviate his feeling of loneliness.

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Forgiveness Through the Eyes of Water

Water symbolizes forgiveness of sin through cleansing. In the Bible, in order to have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, our bodies [need to be] washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This ideology is seen in the biblical story of Noah’s ark. God realizes that “the wickedness of humankind [is] great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5) and that the vast darkness in the hearts of his people can only be cleansed by water from the flood. Water represents a purging and forgiveness of sins. Even in the entertainment industry, water can be a symbol of forgiveness. Throughout the history of Hollywood romantic movies, the cliché scene of a character begging for forgiveness in the rain is commonly portrayed. The protagonist tends to realize their wrong doings, which in turn causes them to chase after their love interest. This can be seen in the movie Nobody’s Fool, when the main character realizes she took her partner for granted. She drives to his cabin and it coincidently begins to rain. She remains there, singing and dancing for him, which eventually prods him to open the door and let her in. The rain represents an element of forgiveness. It cleanses the wrong doings and become an apparent show of redemption. Similarly, in literature, images of water often symbolize freshness, purity, and rebirth, similar to forgiveness. Characters are attracted to water because after they sin, they seek forgiveness and have the desire to repent. However, in works like Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, the protagonist Edna drowns herself in order to free herself from the shackles of her life on Earth. In the work, Edna is “beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being.” However, no matter the extent she tries to free herself, she is not content with her life. Though it can be argued that suicide contradicts the idea of forgiveness from the Lord, Edna’s drowning can be read as a yearning for the qualities of baptism. Baptisms represent cleansing, forgiveness, and freedom from sin. Her drowning somewhat exemplifies these traits and unleashes her from the pain of her depression. She sought forgiveness in herself and in this drowning; she is at peace and finds what she is longing for. In addition to this, water in accordance to forgiveness is important in Judith Guest’s Ordinary People. The protagonist Conrad is in a sailing accident that is fatal to his brother Buck. After this scarring tragedy, Conrad is mentally engulfed by water in his everyday life. He seems to surround himself with the element as a plead for forgiveness from his late brother. He is weighed down by survivor’s guilt and continues to be a member of his school’s swim team as an ode to his brother. To Conrad, water is a bridge to repentance. However, in reality, it is the bridge between his emotional and physical well-being. Though the feeling of water forces the sailing incident into his mind, he continues to swim because he is unable to pull himself out of the mental ocean that threatens to swallow him due to the pressure he puts on himself and his self-perceived faults. In the book, water prompts Conrad to reflect and he divulges that “As water rushes over [him], memories flood [his] mind.” The element triggers his past, and though he believes that it is his only way to repentance, he finally quits the swim team. This release is just the beginning of his healing and it signifies the gradual release of his guilt. Here, water indicates forgiveness of sin through cleansing. In all, it signifies an abundance of motifs. However, in regards to forgiveness, water purifies and strips an individual of their sins. Its prevalent representation of new beginnings through absolution is encompassed in the Bible, the media, and in the examples from American literature. Water is strong force that has a powerful thematic hold on everything, no matter the dimension. 

Protagonist Begging for Forgiveness in the Rain
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The Garden of Deceit

In the Bible there are various motifs that represent several important themes in the text. One significant motif in this work is the garden, signifying how appearances can be deceiving. Demonstrating the aforementioned idea, the Bible portrays how God warns Adam and Eve to not eat from one tree in the Garden of Eden, as further depicted in David Helling’s video The Fall of Man. Nonetheless, Eve is tempted by the beauty of the tree, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat,” (King James Bible, Genesis. 3-6). However, although the tree seems rich and fruitful, it is marked by evil. Adam and Eve mistakenly trust the exterior of the garden, believing the beauty can only represent good. Similarly, in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby’s neighbors and acquaintances make the same mistake. They view his decadent garden, where he hosts many parties, as confirmation that Gatsby is a successful, content person. Nevertheless, Gatsby’s public image is simply a façade. Nick Carraway, his neighbor, describes how “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among whisperings and the champagne and the stars,” (chapter three). Although one might see Gatsby hosting many gatherings in his garden and believe that he is a very social, satisfied man with much success, he is not. In his “blue gardens,” Gatsby is very lonely and isolated. Furthermore, different from what everyone believes, he comes from a humble background where his family was farmers, similar to how Adam is the first farmer on earth. The appearance of his lavish parties in his gardens mislead people to trust that Gatsby is man different from who he is truly. Moreover, in the novel The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Archer similarly proves that appearances can be deceiving while talking to May in a garden. Fearing his secret desire to be with Ellen Olenska, he tries to convince May to have their wedding sooner. However, Archer appears to simply be excited to have May as his wife. As his secret connection with another woman grows, “His only hope was to plead with May, and on the day before his departure he walked with her to the ruinous garden of the Spanish Mission. The background lent itself to allusions to European scenes” (chapter 16). In the artistic, scenic garden, Archer appears to be longing to get married to his fiancé sooner out of love. However, he truly wants to move the wedding date earlier so that he has less time to be tempted by the one woman he is truly captivated by, Ellen. All in all, as presented in the Bible as a significant motif, in many literary works, gardens represent how appearances are misleading and cannot always be trusted. As a result, readers become very engaged when characters encounter something or someone seeming far too convenient and beneficial to be true. Moreover, when the audience knows that the object of the character’s desire is simply an extravagant façade but the character does not know, it creates dramatic irony that further intrigues the readers to discover the consequences of the character’s actions.


The Fall of Man

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The Force of Mountains

Mountains are powerful symbols in American Literature. In the Bible, the mountains are sacred. They are a symbol of divinity and holiness. Mountains are closer to God which makes them so special. When Moses has a vision of God and receives the 10 commandments, it is on top of Mount Sinai. When Moses goes up to Mount Sinai:

“The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the

top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “

Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through

to see the Lord and many of them perish.  Even the priests, who

approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break

out against them.” (King James’ Bible, Exodus 19: 19-22).

The mountains present a supernatural element to the lives of the Israelites. Even priests are not allowed to listen to God. The Mountain provides a moment for Moses to lift up from his reality and come closer to God. In the Bible, the holiest interactions with God or the Devil are placed on the mountains. They provide opportunity and present supernatural change whenever they are mentioned.

In the “I Have a Dream” speech, the mountain is a symbol for hopes and dreams. Beyond the mountains are where freedom and hope lies. It symbolizes a spiritual, mental, and emotional type of liberation. When Mr. King is delivering his speech he says, “This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” Martin Luther King uses the idea of mountains to express a climb over and beyond oppression, discrimination, and racism. King prophesize the mountains viewing them as a heavenly place where any issue can be challenged. Nothing is impossible once you reach the mountains – and that is King’s goal. He wants people to know that with faith, they can move mountains and change their fate. King uses this metaphor of “moving mountains” to show how with faith and strength, people of all races can come together and create a force to move a mountain. People look up to the mountains as a symbol of infinite possibility.

When Emerson discusses mountains and the transparent, transcendental eye, the mountaintop symbolizes great trials and tribulation – the seemingly important things in life (which are given to much attention in his opinion). According to Emerson, “Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain. The mind does not create what it perceives, anymore than the eye creates the rose.” Mountains symbolize the bigger things in life  -the more important things. Emerson expresses that the most difficult obstacles in life are the little things that occur. He believes that once people are able to see and overcome the little tribulations in life, they ultimately complete the biggest one. The pebbles in life are often unexpected – they come and go without being seen. Emerson believes that once people have the ability to absorb nature and gain awareness, that they will be able to surpass the physical characteristics of life. The mountaintop symbolizes nature and a person’s ability to beyond it and enter reality. Once you surpass the mountaintop, you have reached a state of enlightenment and transcendentalism.   

In the famous 60s song “Ain’t no mountain high enough”, mountains symbolize obstacles. During the time when this song was released, schools were being integrated in the U.S. and many white people were against this. The song is a story of a young man losing the love of his life and dealing with racism as he tries to weave his way through life. The song evokes a meaningful message opposing segregation and racism during the Civil Rights Movement. The song presents a deep connection with those who faced racial discrimination and segregation in America and supports peace and love. The song uses love and the young man’s dedication to it in order to symbolize a force powerful enough to defeat racism. Once the mountain is overcome, those fighting for equality have won.



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Binding Blood

The Bible is used to convey many ideas, including many motifs that influence the literary work as a whole. Specifically, blood is a common motif presented throughout the Bible; it represents the bonding of humans and the everlasting connection between them. Readers notice the motif of blood when Christ tells his disciples to eat the sacred bread and wine. He states, “for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:55-59). He wants his disciples to see that his body and blood have come down from heaven, for the disciples to eat, in order to become connected with Heaven and Christ himself. Through this excerpt, readers can see how significant blood is in the Bible, conveying deep trust and devotion to others. Blood appears in other pieces of writing, like American Literature. This motif is used to convey the connections of characters in a rather negative light instead of a positive light like the Bible. Within the motif of blood, readers also can correlate the Foster motif of vampires. Vampires are know to suck of life out of another in order to benefit themselves; this is seen metaphorically in literary texts. During The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Chillingworth is presented as a cold character, and is continuously referred to as a leech. Although he is referred to as a leech in the story, readers can correlate his character to the vampire persona because like a vampire, a leech can suck the life out of a person. Throughout the novel, Chillingworth gets closer and closer with Dimmesdale in order to get back at him for the sin he committed with Hester. Like a vampire, Chillingworth is sucking the blood, or life, out Dimmesdale in order to benefit himself. He presents this idea when Dimmesdale conveys Chillingworth’s character to Hester; “That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart” (17). Readers can see that Chillingworth is living in “cold blood,” by feeding off of both Hester and Dimmesdale’s “human hearts” in order to relieve his “revenge.” Readers can see the significance of blood through Chillingworth’s vampire persona and the negative bonding blood has influenced. This idea is seen in a different piece of literature by Henry James, the author of Daisy Miller. He conveys the motif of blood, and the vampire attributes that come with it, when Ms. Costello judges Giovanelli by coming up with an excuse as to why Daisy like him; “Miss Miller’s [intrigued] with that little barber’s block” (Part II). Mrs. Costello is making fun of Daisy and her relationship with Giovanelli through the Italian stereotype of a “barber’s block.” She does not approve of their relationship so she feels inclined to attach, or suck the life out of their situation. Ms. Costello can be considered a metaphorical vampire in this setting because she is feeding off of Daisy and Giovanelli lives, like a vampire feeds off of blood. Not only is blood seen through the Bible and other pieces of literature, but it is also conveyed through media. Peter Bogdanovich, the filmmaker of Daisy Miller, presents this motif through a scene where Ms. Costello makes a comment about Daisy’s social choices. She firmly states that Daisy is “flirting with any man she can pick up.” This is a key example of Foster’s vampires motif, and how it play a role in literature. James intentionally has Ms. Costello feed off of Daisy’s life by conveying the negative aspects of her social choices. Through multiple examples of American literature and media, along with the vampire theme that appears in them, blood proves to be a key motif that conveys the overall connection between characters. Additionally, the Bible influences the motif of blood through the positive connection of people. Although there is a separation between the negative and positive aspects of blood, they both convey various connections of people.A

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From Church to Birch: Finding Religious Salvation in the Natural World Of Literature


Where does one find God? Surely, religion is not always found in a church. Many biblical motifs, such as the wilderness, can be discovered just outside one’s front door. In the Bible, the wilderness is utilized to depict the search for divinity. A notable example of the search for natural divinity can be uncovered in the “Jesus and the Devil” verse. Many tests in the Bible take place in the natural world, in particular, the desert. This unforgiving, arid biome is where Jesus is tested by the devil, deprived of food for forty days (English Standard Version, Matthew 4.1-11). Nature represents an opportunity for religious self-reflection, whether it be enlightenment or torment varies. Jesus is being tested in the wilderness, the trials of God found more in the natural world than in any church or scripture. Additionally, deserts represent a lack of life forms, representing the struggle for divinity Jesus experiences with the devil as a result of a barren world, no life forms to hold the spirit of God in. In literature, the idea of finding God in nature is not uncommon. A significant example of religion entwined in the natural wilderness can be found in the transcendentalist movement of American literature. Beginning with Ralph Waldo Emerson and followed by Henry David Thoreau, American transcendentalist writers sought to find divinity and religion right in their own backyards. In their essays, they recognized the important lessons about God nature teaches, if one is attentive enough. In Emerson’s essay IV entitled “Spirit”, he muses, “The aspect of Nature is devout. Like the figure of Jesus, she stands with bent head, and hands folded upon the breast. The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” (Spirit IV). Similar to Jesus spreading the word of God, nature teaches devout lessons of worship unfound in a church, which Emerson and Thoreau embraced in their work and their lives. Influenced by the transcendentalist movement, American writers continued to find religious divinity in the natural wilderness. A generation later, Sarah Jewett brought the bible to the fantasy world of A White Heron. Sylvia finds purity in her natural world with the existence of the beautiful white heron, and with the other forest creatures as well. Jewett describes that “their feet were familiar with the path, and it was no matter whether their eyes could see it or not” (1.1). Sylvia shares the divinity and purity that courses through nature with all the creatures in the forest, the fortitude of life forms representing the perfect place for religious purity. Even when sin is introduced and purity is threatened with the hunter, a trial similar to Jesus’s desert trial, Sylvia is able to resist the exploitative temptations because of her love of the natural world, and, hence, religious purity. Examples of the enchanted and religious divinity found in nature can be uncovered in other, more contemporary works of literature. The infamous contemporary work of literature of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is often criticized for being one of the worst writers of modern literature. However, when one takes a deeper look at her work, biblical motifs can be uncovered. Meyer utilizes the wilderness and its creatures to represent Bella Swan’s search for divinity and purity in the natural world. Bella had embraced the life of every other teenage girl, until laying eyes on the mysterious Edward Cullen, a creature of the forest and history unknown. It is in the forest where she first notices his sparkle in the sun, and their bond together solidifies. She heavily debates leaving the comforts of her mortal world for the immortal realm of the forests, but ultimately chooses to completely endorse herself in the everlasting natural world of the supernatural. This is a test, similar to how Jesus was tested in the Jesus and the Devil verse, a choice between the sins of normalcy and the divinity of the unknown natural world. When Bella is finally able to become a vampire later in the trilogy, she is finally free of social liberation, and gives birth to a child, Renesmee, as reputationally divine as Pearl from The Scarlet Letter. All throughout literature, to work as critically celebrated as Walden to novels as critically nitpicked as the young adult novel Twilight, wilderness illustrates the ability to find religious purity and answers in the natural world. By utilizing religious purity and looking to nature and the wilderness for it, many influential American authors are able to represent religion’s place in one’s own backyard. All one needs to do is step outside, and look for it.

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Water and Rebirth in American Literature

In the Bible, water is a powerful and symbolic image in the stories told. Water represents the power of God and the significance it has in the people’s lives. Another common theme in the Bible is the significance of water regarding rebirth, cleansing, and the washing away of sins. This is revealed in Genesis, chapters 6-9, with the story of Noah’s Ark. After God sends the flood, the earth becomes a lively and new place filled with peace. It is calm and new. The symbolic nature of water represents the power of God through spiritual need, dependency, cleansing and rebirth. This Biblical motif is represented in many modern American Literature texts. In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, the water symbolizes Edna’s psychological awakening and the freedom that she receives in the water at the end of the novel. She drowns in the sea and this represents her awakening and rebirth into a new life. Edna is drawn to the sea and this represents the power of the water in this novel. Edna fears the water in the beginning and does not want to encounter it, yet at the end of the novel, she has a strong desire to swim and never return, allowing for the water to provide her with a sense of rebirth and new life as well as power. Edna’s mood towards the water transitions from “never been[ing] able to swim, and Robert [trying] all summer to teach her; but she was always strangely afraid” to having “A feeling of exultation overt[ake] her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul.” The water reveals how Edna wants to start over and wash away her past in hopes for rebirth. She wants to swim where no woman has swum before and start a new life, and the water gives her the power to do so. In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain illustrates the Mississippi River as a symbol of freedom in Huck’s life. Huck uses the water to escape his abusive father and the restrictive life he lives. The river brings Huck to a new life of freedom, which shows how it symbolizes washing away his past and providing a rebirth into a freer life. Huck says, “So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and nobody to bother us.” Huck reveals how the water makes him feel free and brings him to a new life of freedom. The symbol of water originally found in the Bible helps further the themes of freedom and rebirth in American Literature texts. This Renaissance painting of Noah’s Ark represents the way water creates new life and allows for rebirth. After the flood, the earth becomes a peaceful and vibrant place. In both American Literature texts, the characters use water to experience rebirth and new life. Both Edna and Huck have the opportunity to live a more peaceful and positive life through their interactions with water. This image represents life on earth after the flood. The flood God sends allows for the survivors to reexamine life and choose to start over. The earth develops after the flood and becomes calm and pure. Noah’s Ark consisted of one of every living creature on earth at the time of the flood. God sends the flood out of anger and what emerges is a new earth. The creatures are ready to start again and become the world God wants. God tells Noah and the other creatures to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” which proves that after the flood, God is satisfied with the new way the creatures will develop the earth and the flood represents washing away the past and rebirth into a new life and world.

Michelangelo’s rendition of Noah’s Ark.
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God’s Wrath Towards Those Who Have Sinned

God’s wrath acts as a biblical motif throughout the Bible as well as American Literature. First of all, many portray God as quite forgiving and one who does not severely punish for sinful actions; however, when reading the Bible and other stories from American literature, it becomes evident that God actually does punish sins and is not so merciful. One key example of God’s wrath in the Bible is shown through Noah’s Ark and the great flood that God created to wipe out all of human existence, as they had become corrupt and God wanted to show no mercy towards these sinners. The Bible states, “And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth”(American Standard Version, Genesis 6:13). This direct quotation from God proves his intention to wipe out the sinful, rather than save them. Finally, there are many paintings that portray this infamous flood; however, the one that stood out to me is the one below by Francis Danby, as it clearly portrays God as all-powerful and resentful towards a corrupt and sinful world. His wrath is shown through the dark skies, the roaring waters, and the suffering people in the water that have no chance of survival. Furthermore, an example of God’s Wrath in American literature can be found in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Dimmesdale’s tremendous suffering is shown through this quotation, “It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him!” (chapter 11). God placed this pain upon him because he committed the awful sin of adultery with Hester. Additionally, as soon as Dimmesdale is able to let go of his guilt and sin, he feels content with himself; however, God kills him off soon after, showing his eternal wrath against those who have sinned. Lastly, God’s wrath is shown through The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as two characters in particular felt the wrath of God after committing sins. First of all, Myrtle Wilson committed adultery with Tom, and God punished her for this sin by killing her, and even worse, having Daisy (Tom’s love) kill her. Additionally, Gatsby himself also committed an awful sin, as he tried to be with and even steal a married woman (Daisy) from her husband (Tom). Tom states, “What if I did tell him? That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust into your eyes just like he did in Daisy’s, but he was a tough one. He ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car” (chapter 9). In some ways, Gatsby’s punishment is even worse than just death itself, as he will forever be accused for committing a crime that he never committed (running over Myrtle). In addition to death, God punished Gatsby by ruining his reputation as well. Overall, God’s wrath is shown through his actions toward the sinful. Many say that God is forgiving of sins; however, these specific instances throughout the Bible as well as American literature show that He can be rather unforgiving.

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A Prophet in Disguise

A prophet can be considered one who is both in touch with others and is aware of the future yet to come. This knowledge of the future usually does not work in a prophet’s favor because it seems as if no one wants to listen to them. An ever-prevalent example of a prophet can be seen in the Bible with Nathan the Prophet who was alive at the time of King David. God spoke of his desires for King David through Nathan as seen when Nathan states,“‘You are the man! Thus, says the Lord, the God of Israel, I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul’” (English Standard Version, 2 Samuel. 12-7). Although Nathan begins to advise David on how to take care of his future, David does not follow through as he commits adultery with Bathsheba and has two children with her. They have an unnamed child that eventually dies along with a later surviving son named Soloman. God uses Nathan to guide David in the right direction, but only until he has sinned does he follow Nathan’s advice and eventually lives the prophecy he was first given. It can be seen in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne that Roger Chillingworth can be considered a prophet in similar regards although he was not inherently “good” as most prophets are depicted. Unlike Nathan’s motive for doing the right thing in the name of God, Chillingworth is simply determined to find the truth. Arthur Dimmesdale is David in this scenario, as he commits adultery with Hester Prynne and has a child with her. It can even be seen in his room that “the walls were hung round with tapestry, said to be from the Gobelin looms, and, at all events, representing the Scriptural story of David and Bathsheba, and Nathan the Prophet, in colours still unfaded, but which made the fair woman of the scene almost as grimly picturesque as the woe-denouncing seer” (chapter 9). This is an allusion to the story stated above, displaying the connection between both stories. The reason why Chillingworth is so determined to get to the bottom of the situation is that, like Nathan, he is aware of the affair although he is not directly told. He says to Dimmesdale, “Hadst thou sought the whole earth over, there was no one place so secret,—no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me,—save on this very scaffold!’” (chapter 23). Chillingworth wants to find the truth to confirm what he already knows and makes this known to Dimmesdale. The painting shown below displays Nathan and David in a situation where Nathan seems to have the upper hand. This notion is obvious because Nathan is making an inculpatory gesture towards David, most likely accusing him of adultery. The depiction resonates with The Scarlet Letter as Chillingworth holds the accusatory upper hand over Dimmsdale by knowing too much about his past. The clouds surrounding and coming forth over David symbolize the guilt hanging over his head just like the guilt that constantly invades Dimmesdale’s mind. Both men made mistakes and are being secretly reprimanded for it by a guilty conscience. Furthermore, yet another example of a prophet in American literature is Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger as he stands as one who sees through “adulthood”. Holden feels as though he knows what is yet to come when he describes the future that lies ahead of him, making him a kind of “false prophet” but still with some notable insights of an actual prophet. He tries to root out the wickedness of the world and lives in this sense that he truly is a prophet of his times. He believes that he can save children from the dangers of the world, as shown when he claims, “Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff” (chapter 22). Holden wants children to follow the path he feels they are intended to take, not follow in the corrupted values the world has placed upon them. He wants to be the one to try to stop them before they make a bad decision, as Nathan did with David. Due to Holden’s initiatives, he can be considered somewhat of a prophet in American Literature. In the end, a prophet can advise people of the consequences of their actions, but the truth may not be followed until the time is right.

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Minor Characters Introducing Major Characters in the Bible and American Lit

One motif in the bible is minor characters introducing a major character. The chief example of this is Jesus being introduced to the world by John the Baptist. ““I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire,” (Luke 3.16) he says to the crowd gathered around him, baptizing Jesus while God appears above. A character as significant as Jesus being introduced by a minor character adds weight to his introduction. It contrasts Jesus with a similar character who is less important, making Jesus seem more important by comparison. The painting below displays John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. It was made by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci. In the painting, you can see the dove and God’s hands above Jesus, showing the world that he is the son of God. This motif occurs various times throughout American literature, a good example being in Daisy Miller. In the book, the titular character is introduced to Winterbourne by her younger brother, Randolph, who doesn’t play a very big role, when he says “here comes my sister!” (Chapter 1).  Randolph introducing Daisy makes her seem more notable in contrast to him. Another example of this is in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, where Blanche is introduced to audience through the minor character of Eunice, asking her “what’s the matter, honey? Are you lost?” (Scene 1). Blanche is described as looking very out of place, which is accentuated by the way that she is introduced to a minor character who is perfectly ordinary for the neighborhood.

Image result for da vinci baptism of christ
The Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci (1475)
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