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.

This entry was posted in Biblical Allusions, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Prophet in Disguise

  1. nicolestjacques says:

    Great work, I find this topic particularly interesting! I particularly like the analysis portion of it, as it was explicated fairly well. I feel as though this post could be slightly improved by better grammatical attention, as well as a stronger hook. Question: What is the painting attached depicting and how does it relate to your prompt?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s