Author: Mark Twain
Pages: 100 (paperback)
Selected By: Elle Tea
Elle Tea’s Score:
“At first, Adam is puzzled by this new arrival, Eve, in the garden, and he is suspicious of her disturbing appetite for fruit. Eve, believing herself to be some sort of experiment, is curious about another experiment in the garden, perhaps some sort of reptile or possibly architecture. Eve gives names to everything, much to Adam’s annoyance. He tries to ignore her, so she seeks companionship among the animals. Over time, they grow to love each other and, in the end, an elderly Adam is filled with a realization of that love as he stands at Eve’s grave.”
Elle Tea’s Review
The Diaries of Adam & Eve – “translated,” as the full title suggests, by the book’s author, Mark Twain – is not a religious text. Twain’s own views on organized religion are a bit of a mystery; he is usually considered an atheist, and this book (technically two books, but I’ll refer to them as one since I read them as a whole) is often cited as proof of his lack of faith due to its irreverent, satirical tone and lack of mention of the creator – er… Creator. Later in life, he did join a relatively progressive Christian community, but whether it was out of curiosity or genuine belief, we’ll never know… nor is it really anyone’s business except his, and he’s dead, so… that’s that, then. But at least a superficial knowledge of the creation of Adam and Eve is helpful in understanding what makes this short story so amusing to so many.
Some instinct tells me that eternal vigilance is the price of supremacy.
I think it’s safe to assume that most people reading this review are familiar with the mythic history of the Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve; if you’re already lost, then it will be this godless infidel’s pleasure to give you her non-denominational crash-course version, which goes a bit like so:
An omniscient invisible being – or Being, I guess – creates everything, then shapes a man-shaped human out of mud, breathes life into it, and says, “Hey, you can’t keep all this stuff, but if you’d watch over it for me, that’d be really swell.” As a managerial starting bonus, said Being then yanks a rib out of the aforementioned Man and from this makes a female-shaped human. Man and Woman rule over a paradise called Eden, where everyone gets to run about naked and all creatures great and small are friends (as well as vegetarians, because it’s hard to eat your friends). Then, in the world’s first (and cruelest) prank ever, the Being who created Man and Woman sticks a tree nearby, specifically points it out to the two bozos he’s – He’s – created, and says, “Don’t ever touch that. If you do, I’ll throw your asses outta here faster than you can say hamatzav chara!*” Of course, after being talked into it by a fiendish serpent, the Woman eats fruit from the tree, the Man eats it because she does, and all hell breaks loose.
“Do not be downhearted, you poor friendless girl; I will be your friend.”
Most traditions which follow this story pretty much absolve men from any sort of real blame in the “fall” of humans – short of being twitterpated and gullible, Adam doesn’t actually do much wrong except eat whatever Eve hands him; in a few traditions, however, Eve is viewed as the more innocent of the two, deceived by a devil who fed on her naivete, while Adam – as a member of Management – knew better than to eat of the stolen fruit but did it anyway. Regardless of blame, God invokes the first known instance of Bros Before Hos and holds them both accountable, and, thus, Pain, Suffering, Violence, and meat all become parts of Life.
You have to be patient and go on experimenting until you find out that you can’t find out. And it is delightful to have it that way, it makes the world so interesting.
Mark Twain’s classic takes that entire myth and turns it upside down, essentially reforming it into something more practical, something more real. The primordial Man and Woman are just humans, oblivious to their own significance, confused about their purpose, searching for their identities in a fledgling, nameless world.
Built me a shelter against the rain, but could not have it to myself in peace. When I tried to put it out it shed water out of the holes it looks with, and wiped it away with the back of its paws, and made a noise such as some of the other animals make when they are in distress. I wish it would not talk; it is always talking.
Eve is both cerebral and passionate, clearly in awe with her surroundings. She explores the untouched garden and loves each creature which crosses her path; it is she who gives them their names, and it is she whom they follow and around whom they gather. Adam, on the other hand, is rather apathetic when it comes to the world around him, and he takes a more practical approach to his situation; shelter and food (and silence) are his primary concerns. He, too, has the power to name the things and creatures around them, but Eve’s enthusiasm for ALL OF THE THINGS! means he only rarely has the opportunity to do so. As the only two humans on the planet, it’s natural that they’d come together at some point, and so they do – much to her delight and his exasperation. She loves him because she can’t help it, but she also tries to understand what it is about him that brings out those giddy, overwhelming emotions in her; there is almost a sense of resignation when all of her questions come to a single answer: she loves him because she was made to do so. As always, Adam stands in contrast: he tolerates her because he must; she is there and he is there and they are the only two of them that are, and so it must be. He grumbles and mutters through his diary entries about her chattiness, about her excitability, about how irritating he finds her company…
But the arrival of Cain changes everything.
She has been climbing that tree again. Clodded her out of it. She said nobody was looking. Seems to consider that a sufficient justification for chancing any dangerous thing. Told her that. The word “justification” moved her admiration – and envy too, I thought. It is a good word.
Twain never comes right out and tells us Eve’s views on the infant Cain, but Adam’s are clear: he is obsessed with the strange new creature, the likes of which have never before been seen. Adam makes frequent mention of his desire to catalogue the shriveled, mewling beast – which at times he believes may be some sort of bear or reptile – and when that fails, he goes into the woods to find more just like it in an effort to breed them, or, failing that, dissect and analyze one or the other to learn more about their species. You get the impression that Eve knows exactly how Cain came about and from where, but whether she tells Adam the tale of finding the wee beasty in the woods from guilt or a desire to horde that new knowledge for herself is an unknown. Meanwhile, Adam’s sudden interest in science and exploration is less about a newfound love for learning and more about plain human jealousy: Eve used to dote on him, and now she only seems to have time for the fat writhing stray thing she dragged back to his home.
It is my judgment it is either an enigma or some kind of bug. If it dies, I will take it apart and see what its arrangements are. I never had a thing perplex me so.
Of course, as most of you probably know, a second infant comes along, but by then Adam has at least mostly figured out that they’re as human as he is. And there is, of course, death – since Death became a part of Life along with all the rest of the Pandora package left under that damn tree. And while Eve is the first of the First Couple to shuffle off this mortal coil, Death is still not the worst punishment for their supreme transgression; the tale ends with Adam, who, for the first time, finds himself alone and, finally surrounded by the silence he thought he craved for a majority of their lives, he realizes he loved her the whole time. And so, in the company of Loneliness, Adam is left with Regret.
It is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.
Overall, this was both a very quick and enjoyable read. It’s Twain, so while the story is very witty and almost cute on the surface, there’s depth to it if you’re open to taking that plunge.
Elle read the Fair Oaks Press paperback edition of this selection.
* We’re in deep shit!