Adam and Eve Critical Essays

John Erskine


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Much of the plot of Adam and Eve is consumed with Adam’s Hamlet-like indecisiveness as he weighs the choice between Lilith and Eve. Despite Erskine’s assertion in the novel that actual experience is more important than mere discussion of experience, a large portion of the novel consists of seemingly aimless conversations. Many of these dialogues are characterized by circular logic, as the earth’s first inhabitants debate ultimate causes.

As the title suggests, Adam and Eve is about the beginning of history. More precisely, the novel is Erskine’s attempt to rewrite history by supplementing the biblical story of Adam and Eve. This concept of rewriting history was popular among novelists after World War I, an event that represented the end of history, if not in fact, at least in metaphor.

The revision of the book of Genesis in Adam and Eve is also a testament to the influence of pragmatism, the philosophy made popular at the turn of the century by William James, a Harvard professor. When Erskine compiled his “Outline of Readings in Important Books,” a list of books to be read by undergraduates at Columbia University, William James was one of the approximately fifty authors included. Erskine clearly considered pragmatism to be a fundamental concept.

Pragmatism is the antithesis of Platonic idealism. Plato suggests that everything on Earth is a shadow of a cosmic ideal, whereas pragmatism holds that there is no ideal because the truth is constantly changing. The only way to...

(The entire section is 631 words.)