Scarlet letter biblical allusions

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Scarlet letter biblical allusions

By | October 2007
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Sin and knowledge are linked in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve, who were expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result of their knowledge, Adam and Eve are made aware of their humanness, that which separates them from the divine and from other creatures. Once expelled from the Garden of Eden, they are forced to toil and to procreate—two "labors" that seem to define the human condition. The experience of Hester and Dimmesdale recalls the story of Adam and Eve because, in both cases, sin results in expulsion and suffering. But it also results in knowledge—specifically, in knowledge of what it means to be human. For Hester, the scarlet letter functions as "her passport into regions where other women dared not tread," leading her to "speculate" about her society and herself more "boldly" than anyone else in New England.[2]

hester – eve
leaving jail – leaving garden, new identity

thrown out of garden – thrown out of Puritan society

Much like Adam and Eve, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne are symbolically cast out of Paradise for their sin, forced to suffer, toil, and confront their guilt at their transgression of society's norms -- as well as their own. In doing so, they become aware of their mortality and humanity, which results in their personal growth and ability to empathize with others.

Chillingworth is consistently a symbol of cold reason and intellect unencumbered by human compassion. While Dimmesdale has intellect but lacks will, Chillingworth has both. He is fiendish, evil, and intent on revenge. In his first appearance in the novel, he is compared to a snake, an obvious allusion to the Garden of Eden.

However, just like any weak ma, like Adam in the Garden of Eden, Dimmesdale deserts his past as Minister, listening to the advice of Hester, that; "Heaven would show mercy." He flees holy punishment, which is a reminder of his...