Sunday, August 18, 2019

Innate Evil and the Temptations of the Devil Essay -- American Literat

Early American literature is unique in that it is abundantly influenced by Biblical themes and ideas. Being that this country was founded by the strict, fundamentalist Puritans, it seems obvious that the literature would be pervaded by such things as the presence of evil and its impact on goodness and holiness. The â€Å"evil† that is found in Melville and Hawthorne is interesting because it reflects the Biblical idea of evil tempting good and attempting to convert it rather than simply destroy it. The stories of Poe reflect the turmoil and evil that is contained within a person and tempts him or her to commit evil acts. What is fascinating about this literature is that in Billy Budd, The Scarlet Letter, â€Å"The Imp of the Perverse,† and â€Å"William Wilson,† evil is always victorious. In today’s society, it is tempting to read stories and watch films in which good always prevails and the characters live happily ever after; however, at the time of these writings, there was still an air of Calvinism and the lasting idea that mankind is innately evil. Modern society is uncomfortable with the term â€Å"evil,† but at the time of this literature, it was a common term that was used freely and had clear definitions. Therefore, because of the strong Biblical influence, the aforementioned tales are centered on this presence of evil and its temptation and torturing of that which is holy until goodness is overcome. Melville’s Billy Budd is a tale in which the Biblical influence is quite obvious. There are many images of snakes and serpents, which is often symbolic of Satan. Many critics read the story as an allegory to the Christ story in which Billy and Claggart â€Å"play the roles of Jesus and Judas† (Wright 133). There is imagery throughout th... ...he adultery and temptations in The Scarlet Letter, and the murder in both â€Å"The Imp of the Perverse† and â€Å"William Wilson† all were easily classified as evil. Today, many of these actions would be subscribed to the doers’ childhoods or to other traumatic experiences and the people themselves would not necessarily be held responsible. It is difficult in today’s society to classify good and evil because those areas are no longer black and white; however, in early American times, evil was easy to identify and was seen as the influence of the devil. The aforementioned literature of Melville, Hawthorne, and Poe all contains tremendous influence from the Bible and therefore displays this evil temptation from the devil himself. Sadly, in each of the stories, evil always seems to triumph, and the characters are forced to realize their own wickedness and depravities.

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