The Scarlet Letter Significant Allusions
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Significant Allusions

Biblical Allusions and Allegories: Hawthorne makes use of allusions to symbols and individuals from the Christian tradition in order to explore the subjects of sin, guilt, and salvation. Hawthorne uses allusion in tandem with allegory, drawing a set of sustained connections between the novel’s characters and the biblical figures and elements to which they correspond.

  • Hester as Eve: Many read Hester’s character as an allegorical reflection of Eve, the first woman. In the biblical Book of Genesis, God creates the first humans, Adam and Eve, and allows them to live in the Garden of Eden, forbidding them only from eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. A serpent tempts Eve with the fruit, and Eve succumbs and eats it. She in turn persuades Adam to eat the fruit. God, furious, casts them out of Eden and condemns humankind to lead lives of suffering. For the Puritans, as well as many other Christian denominations, Eve’s transgression was the Original Sin; it justifies the subjugation of women on the basis that they are inherently weak and capable of tempting men into corruption. Some read Hester’s adulterous affair with Reverend Dimmesdale as an echo of Eve’s submission to temptation and her subsequent corruption of Adam.
  • Roger Chillingworth as Satan: Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, is frequently referred to as the “Black Man,” which is a colloquial name for Satan. In many Christian traditions, Satan is a fallen angel who wages a revolution against God. He is cast into hell, where he rules over other sinners who are denied entrance into heaven. He delights in tempting people to sin and lose their places in heaven. In The Scarlet Letter , the narrator likens Chillingworth’s behavior to Satan’s, especially when Chillingworth discovers that Reverend Dimmesdale is Hester’s lover: Had anyone seen Chillingworth “at that moment of his ecstasy,...

(The entire section is 478 words.)