"There never was an apple, in Adam's opinion, that wasn't worth the trouble you got for eating it."
Apples are very frequently used to symbolise temptations and lusts of many kinds. Often this is by indicating that a given choice of action is alluring but will have extensive harmful consequences later. When used as a character motif, it tends to signify someone who frequently offers such temptations or indulges in them.
There is a short list of examples that are exceptionally iconic:
Details for these four are in the examples. Because of their influence of their apples are very likely to specifically symbolise the temptations of secret knowledge, health and immortality, beauty, and wealth. They are also likely to be poisoned or be associated with snakes.
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Anime and Manga
- Death Note: Ohba, the writer, apparently requested apples just because he thinks they look cool. In continuity, however, Ryuk finds them addictive, and they're one of the things he enjoys about Earth - next to mass murder and Criminal Mind Games, which are also among the chief draws of the series for the audience. He receives all three from Light in exchange for power, which ultimately leads to Light's death.
- The titular MacGuffin in Appleseed is a technology that allows Bioroids to have a lifespan just as long as humans.
- In Rebuild of Evangelion, the symbol of the conspiratorial organisation NERV is a half-eaten apple with a fig leaf.
- In Bizenghast, there are apples that can cure severe illnesses and even possibly bring someone back from the dead, Dinah is warned to take only one - but is convinced to surreptitiously take another one (which of course later revealed to have turned deadly by the fact she stole it).
- In the latter half of the Soul Eater anime, Medusa, a snake witch, is associated with apples several times. One such moment is when Rachel, the child whose body she snatches by disguising herself as a cute dog, is watching an educational television program: A little girl reaching for a certain red fruit, which is then repeated several times: "An apple! An apple! An apple!"
- In Monster, Johan gives the all-but-blind Schubert an apple to convince him that the woodland of his younger days is still there. In the short run, this ingratiates himself with him; in the long run, if he ever finds out otherwise it's likely to contribute into Johan's favorite trick of driving people to suicide.
- Death And Ker is rife with apple symbolism, including allusions to Eris's apple of discord, Snow White's poisoned apple, and the golden apples of immortality tended by the Hesperides. During one confrontation, Minako is even tempted with an apple.
- In DC Nation, the apple of desire was passed around during the Olympics plot. Jesse Quick sees a world where her father's still alive. Donna Troy saw a world where she was reunited with her family, Titans and Terry Long. It is enough to shock Donna into realizing that she really wants to be with her living family and give up her dead children to Persephone's care so she can return to the Titans.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Apples are Barbossa's Trademark Favorite Food, and his inability to taste them as an undead pirate is the most important consequence to him for his theft of the cursed Aztec gold. He also keeps them on-hand at all times, to eat one as soon as he's free of the curse again, which allows Jack to mockingly eat one in front of him in order to goad him into making a deal. It's the temptation and the consequence all at once! When he finally returns from the dead at the end of Dead Man's Chest, naturally the first thing he does is to eat one.
- Used in Pleasantville, where the male lead is offered an apple by his girlfriend in a film all about a fictional town's loss of innocence.
- In Oz: The Great and Powerful, Evanora offers her sister Theodora a green apple, promising her that one bite will give her ultimate power to have vengeance on Oz and Glinda. It turns her into the Wicked Witch of the West.
- In Fright Night, Jerry Dandridge is usually seen snacking on apples - unless he's snacking on someone's neck instead.
- In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Girl of the Week Willie Scott is disgusted by the dinner served at the temple and refuses to eat, despite being obviously hungry. Retiring for the night, the Belligerent Sexual Tension between Willie and Indy is heightened by Indy appearing with a big juicy apple that Willie devours with lust.
- In Animal House, Donald Sutherland's shady, student-romancing English professor is shown lecturing on Paradise Lost from a Satan Is Good perspective, and then biting into an apple.
- Truly bizarre B-Movie The Apple has Mr. Boogalow's temptation of the female lead to stardom represented by an oversized prop apple.
- In the commentary for Eve's Bayou, the director and writer points out that even she thought her use of Eve and the apple and Eve and the snake were a little heavy handed.
- In TRON: Legacy, Clu sees his reflection in a silver apple, recalls his creation by Flynn (who he has come to passionately hate), and loses his temper.
- The Magician's Nephew, the prequel Narnia Creation Myth installment. There, the apples in question are silver and can cure any ailment. The protagonist is instructed to fetch one to plant as a ward to protect Narnia, but it occurs to him to steal it to give to his dying mother instead. He ultimately resists doing so, only for Aslan to give him another as a reward. It turns out that if he had stolen it, it would have worked - but only in a Be Careful What You Wish For kind of way.
- The front cover of Twilight has someone holding an apple, representing that Edward and Bella are each other's Forbidden Fruit.
- The quote from Good Omens above, in which Adam Young's mischievous apple-scrumping is directly (and not disapprovingly) compared to that other Adam. (Not to mention that the actual serpent from the Garden is one of the main characters of the book.)
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy repeatedly plays with Greek mythology's version of the Apple of Discord.
- "A POISON TREE" from Songs of Experience features a bright, shiny and poisonous apple.
- In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno Concluded they see and catch a thief stealing apples from the orchard.
- In the last book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, an enormous apple tree grows in the middle of the arboretum of forbidden knowledge, and at a pivotal moment the Incredibly Deadly Viper offers one of its apples to the orphans because they have just realized the apples contain an antidote to the Medusoid Mycelium, but are too weakened by the fungus to get one for themselves, deliberately twisting an allusion to the Garden of Eden.
- In the Young Wizards series, the Magitek computers are all Apples, but the symbol is of an apple without a bite taken out of it. This is symbolic of the universe before The Lone Power's rebellion.
- The first Sword of Truth book features a scene of the two leads sharing an apple in a rather sexy way, nearly leading Kahlan to lose control of her Confessor's power.
Live Action Television
- In Angel this is invoked by Eve, who offers Angel an apple to represent the power Wolfram and Hart offers. He takes a bite out of it. Holtz also offers Wesley a slice of apple when Wesley comes to betray Angel.
- The opening titles of Desperate Housewives use an apple motif. A giant one with the show's name written on it falls on Adam (in the painting shown at the beginning) and the four main characters are shown catching apples at the end. Much of the show's promotional material also makes use of the motif.
- The Collector: The Devil peddles weird black apples "plucked from the tree of knowledge you'd rather not have". They make people realize unpleasant things about themselves, sometimes by restoring forgotten memories.
- Once Upon a Time: Regina Mills (otherwise known as Snow White's evil stepmother) uses the last of her magic (a Tragic Keepsake) to grab the poisoned apple from the Fairy Tale realm. She uses it to bake a "special" apple turnover for Emma (so she can get rid of her son's biological mother and have the kid all to herself). Henry (the son) intervenes and demonstrates that he's not crazy, just Genre Savvy by gobbling it and dropping into a magic coma, forcing both his mommies into an Enemy Mine to break the spell.
- Boardwalk Empire: Al Capone, first introduced in the pilot as a young, childish thug under the watch of Johnny Torrio, undergoes a maturation process during the first season that ends with a scene where he guns down a rival mook, takes an apple from the fallen and eats it. By the next season, he shows contempt at the idea of being anything but a gangster.
- On Heroes episode "Strange Attractors", Sylar bites into a apple and invokes Forbidden Fruit as he torments Matt Parkman's sanity and home life. The apple is seen again after it's revealed that after Matt blacked out from drinking too much, Sylar has taken over his body.
- At the start of Season 2 of Luther, the title character promises his boss he won't make contact with Alice Morgan. That same episode he visits her in prison and exchanges a secret message inserted into an apple that he throws over the prison wall.
Mythology and Religion
- This goes all the way back to the stories of the Ancient Greeks. The Apple of Discord was inscribed ΚΑΛΛΊΣΤῌ ("For the fairest") by Eris, Goddess of Strife, and thrown into the round of undeniably vain Olympians, eventually resulting in the Trojan War. Gods sure tend to overreact... Then there's also Hera's orchard of golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides, the apple by means of which Akontios tricked Kydippe to marry him, and the golden apples Hippomenes used to distract Atalanta in a race and earn the right to marry her. Don't get 'em mixed up.
- The Bible: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Contrary to popular conception, The Bible does not, in fact, name the original Forbidden Fruit an "apple." Some researchers believe than it was Lost in Translation back in Ancient Rome, since "malus/malum" can mean both "evil" and "apple" in Latin. So, technically, the Biblical apple is likely a Fanon coupled with absorbing Greek notions of the Apple Of Discord. And an Incredibly Lame Pun. An alternate explanation for the 'Latin mistranslation' is that "apple" in English used to be a generic name for all fruit, and it changed its meaning.
- In fact, Judaism presents in the Talmud a rather large selection of possible contenders for the original fruit, stating that God deliberately did not identify it in the Bible so as not to cause a backlash against it (the fruit, after all, wasn't at fault here). The candidates include commonly known fruits in the Middle East (not apples), such as figs, dates, pomegranates, etrogs (a citrus fruit kind of like a giant, sweet lemon), and wheat.
- Some say that given the climate of the supposed garden and the location scholars had given, the fruit was probably a pomegranate, this would have some added symbolism, including the legend that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, the same as the number of laws in the Torah.
- Fun fact: Carl von Linne, the creator of the Linnaean species naming system, was convinced that the Forbidden Fruit was a banana. That would certainly lend support to the "forbidden knowledge is carnal knowledge" interpretation (and Carl von Linne would have known it, too).
- Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter, liked to use exotic (to him) oranges for his Forbidden Fruit. Probably partly because Oranges are called Sinaasappel (Chinese Apple) in Dutch.
- In Islam, the forbidden fruit is traditionally wheat. This has interesting implications, placing the Fall of Mankind with the agricultural revolution. Rousseau would be pleased, as he had much the same opinion.
- Some have also proposed the passionfruit. On the one hand, it just sounds so much more tempting than a plain old apple. On the other, it makes a clever call forward to Jesus, who had to basically Set Right What Once Went Wrong in the garden.
- Idunn's golden apples in Norse Mythology granted one immortality. For a while, anyway. If the gods don't continue munching those apples, they get old. This aspect was explored in a tale involving Loki and the frost giant Thiazi.
- Irish Mythology: In The Sons Of Tuirenn, the sons of Tuirenn are to get three golden apples from the well-guarded Garden in the East of the World. One bite of these fruits can cure any wound or sickness.
- In Warhammer40000, Leman Russ is looking for apples from the Tree of Life to get the Emperor back on his feet. He's been looking for ten damn millenia.
- In John Milton's Comus, the younger brother invokes this when explaining his fear for his sister.
But Beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon-watch with unenchanted eye
To save her blossoms, and defend her fruit
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Who's the older woman eating an apple? EVA, of course. Who brings her the apple? Snake. Whom does she try to give it? Ocelot, whose real name is Adam. Adam refuses to take the apple from EVA. And he's the baddy while she tries to turn him back to the Light Side.
- In the Assassin's Creed games, the Apple is a relic created by Those Who Came Before. It tempts those who seek it with great knowledge and powers over the minds of people at the cost of individual freedom.
- The goal of the Konami game Penguin Adventure is to get a golden apple to cure the penguin princess.
- One of the goals in Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the hunt for the village's great treasure, the Golden Apple. Turns out the Golden Apple is the late Baron's daughter Flora, who has an apple-shaped birthmark.
- Garfield and Friends' parody of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves had Lanolin Sheep (wearing a purple hood and a basket of apples labeled "poison apples") offering a poison apple and openly saying it's poison note to Snow Wade while the other dwarves are still in the house. Just like in the story, Snow Wade then eats it and dies. His reason? "I'll accept anything that's free!"
- Bringing a whole new meaning to giving an apple to a teacher, physicist and "father of the atomic bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer (unsuccessfully) tried to poison his tutor with an apple covered in toxic chemicals.