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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This entry was posted in 21st Century Learning, 21st Century Skills, American Literary Studies, American Studies, AP Mindset, Becoming an American Literary Critic, Biblical Allusions, Honors English III, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Trees of Temptation

  1. 20ara says:

    I love your insight into trees being a symbol of temptation. Your mention of the broadway play is a well-fitted example of your motif in the media. After reading this, I understand exactly how Trees could represent temptation – I never really thought about the trees in the Adam and Eve scene symbolizing temptation – your blog post gave me a new idea to think about.

  2. gtosone says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post about trees being a symbol of temptation. I have never taken the time to really recognize the significance of trees in literature, however your post has encouraged me to rethink what I have read this year and analyze the impact trees have on the theme of temptation. I really like how your media is a modern example of your theme. It proves that trees and temptation is a powerful theme that has extended its importance to the modern world of works. I really enjoy this post!

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