The Loss of Innocence

Picture taken from the film, "The Scarlet Letter"

The loss of innocence is an important biblical motif that appears in all literature. In chapters two and three of the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve’s faith are tested in the Garden of Eden. When God states that Adam and Eve “must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die” they take a bite of an apple regardless and are exposed to all evil in the world. As a result, Adam and Eve no longer enjoy the blissful unawareness that God provided and now must deal with the consequences of sin that they created, and have now “cursed the ground.” An example of this motif in American literature arises in the Scarlet Letter; before sinning, Hester is blissfully unaware of judgment and corruption in her Puritan society, which leads her to the striking temptation of a love affair. After this deed, however, she is corrupted and must experience the evils in her church, community, and within herself. This is also the case with Arthur Dimmsdale, who sinned with Hester. As a result, he is tortured by his own thoughts and consequently dies. An act that sparks a character’s loss of innocence, therefore, foreshadows a negative result in literature that is similar to the consequences in the Garden of Eden. Although, the experience is not completely negative because in both the bible passage as well as in The Scarlet Letter because both sins acted as a precedent to the world around them.

Other examples include:

Catcher in the Rye

To Kill a Mockingbird

This entry was posted in Biblical Allusions, Honors English III. Bookmark the permalink.

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