Temptation is often the impetus for human beings failing to adhere to what is just and moral. Human beings are constantly being tested, and sometimes failure occurs due to the influence of temptation. This motif is evidenced in Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter and it also further alluded to in Genesis with the story of Adam and Eve.Upon further inspection of Hawthorne’s work, it seems evident that Hester and Dimmesdale are simulations of Adam in Eve, in that they have both been tested by their society and failed due to temptation. In doing so, they must pay for their sins. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are specifically told not to eat the fruit of the tree, but due to temptation and the provocation of the serpent they end up committing the forbidden act. In doing so, they are eschewed by God and punished. Hester and Dimmesdale deal with the temptation of adultery, which in their Puritan society is also strictly forbidden. Upon discovery of this act, the rest of the village spurns Hester. Dimmesdale does not have to deal with the direct rejection of the society, but instead deals with his own feelings of guilt and wrongdoing. In both cases, the consequence lies in mortality, but unlike Adam and Eve who’s immortality is being stripped from them due to their acts, Hester and Dimmesdale are forced to live with their guilt, which is shown to eat away at Dimmesdale’s soul causing him to beg for mortality. Hawthorne’s use of this allusion serves to illuminate a larger motif in that temptation can be a slippery slope for the human race, and those who fail the test of temptation, will likely pay the price.
Temptation Test/Fail Motif in other works of Literary Merit:
- The Age of Innocence, Edith Warton
- The Awakening, Kate Chopin
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald