The Ironic Double of Sin and Revenge: Concept of Revenge in Edgar Allen Poe and Nathanial Hawthorne

Min YU


In Genesis, God put everlasting enmity between human beings and the serpent, which was then rewritten by John Milton in Paradise Lost; Milton’s God assigns human beings the task of revenging on the serpent, granting a sense of justice and sublime to the action of vengeance. The mutual-death picture of revenge, depicted in the Bible and sublimed by Milton, was rewritten de-constructively by Edgar Allen Poe in “The Cask of Amontillado” and also by Nathanial Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter. Both writers appropriated the mutual-death structure of avenger and victim to illustrate the miserable outcome and sinister nature of revenge. Poe and Hawthorne, echoing each other, transform the sublime mutual-death picture into an ironic double of sin and vengeance, in which occurs the ironic role-shifting between sinner and victim, the identification of the avenger as a greater sinner and the deconstruction of sublime and the possibility of redemption.


Rewriting; Revenge; Sin; Redemption

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