Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“Eve’s Story” is a clear statement about established religion and its most evangelistic proponents. The poem is told from the viewpoint of a sixteen-year-old girl who leaves home after her father strangles a deformed kitten; she winds up in an evangelist’s tent.
The girl is quickly seduced by the evangelist. She becomes his servant, even helping him to procure prostitutes. When he becomes increasingly successful, the girl is edged out of his inner circle by more photogenic women: “We had gone video,/ but I wasn’t in them./ I did not fit his image anymore./ Cheryl did, with her blue contacts, blonde hair,/ and silicone implants.” The girl avenges herself by filming the evangelist engaged in a lurid sex act and exposing him as a hypocrite. His followers desert him, and blond, blue-eyed Cheryl becomes a talk-show celebrity. Yet the speaker stays with the fallen preacher, explaining, “So now we live like any other/ retired couple in Sarasota.”
Ai is commenting not merely upon the preacher himself but also upon the religious system that has produced him and people like him: “Of a sudden, I realize/ this is how Eve must have done it./ The snake and God were only props/ she discarded when she left Adam/ writhing on the ground.” Unlike most of Ai’s narrators, this girl inspires real compassion and real pity. She is clearly a victim of other people’s actions. The actual blame is still hard to place. Is it the preacher himself...
(The entire section is 371 words.)
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