“Apple sauce for Eve” appears in Marge Piercy’s The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme, published in 1998. As the title of the collection suggests, one source of inspiration for this work was the poet’s connection to Judaism, but it is hardly a typical religious poem. Perhaps an even greater motivating factor was her unwavering belief in feminist causes and a determination to reevaluate the traditional concepts found in biblical stories.
Piercy applauds Eve, the biblical first woman, for her quest for knowledge and her disregard of any divine retribution for eating the infamous apple. To enhance the effort to promote logic, rationale, and intellectual pursuit over superstition and fear, Piercy uses scientific metaphors to describe Eve’s desire and her decision to commit the “original sin.” Eve and Satan are likened to “lab partners,” and Eve is deemed “the first scientist.”
In spite of any apparent sacrilege a synopsis of this poem implies, readers should not condemn and cast it off as such. In fact, its inclusion in a book dedicated to exploring Jewish belief, doctrine, and history points to just the opposite. The Art of Blessing the Day celebrates the poet’s Jewish heritage—sometimes with pious reflection, sometimes with humor, and sometimes with candid attacks on established and questionable protocol.
An analysis of “Apple sauce for Eve” should actually begin with the title. The accepted spelling of “applesauce” is as one word, so there must be a reason that Piercy chose to separate it into two. The subject and themes of the poem suggest that the word “apple” needs to stand alone for its significant allusion to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The word “sauce” becomes significant for its indication that the Eve in this poem is doing something more with a piece of fruit than the Eve of religious lore was given credit for.
In the first line, “Those old daddies” refers to the writers of the first books of the Old Testament and of other religious doctrine that relates the story of humankind’s original sin, perpetrated by a woman. Note that the word “daddies” is chosen instead of “fathers,” perhaps because it connotes a slightly wry, less respectful attitude on the part of the speaker, an attitude she maintains throughout the poem. The daddies cursed not only Eve but “us in you,” meaning all women in general. In lines 2 and 3, the reason for Eve’s damnation is revealed: “curiosity,” or the “sin” of “wanting knowledge.”
These lines describe some of the ways in which Eve approaches her quest to learn, beginning with the last few words in line 3: “To try, to taste, / to take into the body, into the brain.” There is a correlation between the body and the mind, because both are necessary for examining new knowledge and not just in passive ways. Instead, Eve will “turn each thing, each sign, each factoid” in various directions to see how it changes. In other words, Eve’s approach is scientific; she gains her knowledge through objective experimentation.
The final lines of the first stanza use scientific imagery to show the seriousness and insatiable quality of Eve’s longing for knowledge. The notion that “white / fractures into colors” refers to the fact that white reflects nearly all the rays of sunlight and is actually made up of all the colors of the rainbow. As a result, the “image breaks / into crystal fragments that pierce the nerves / while the brain casts the chips into patterns.” These last two descriptions suggest that science may have a stinging, yet stimulating, effect on the physical being, but the informed mind can take the fragments and chips and crystals and shape them into definable patterns. This statement is a clear assertion of the human—and particularly the woman’s—will to use intellect over physicality to discover new truths.
These lines allude to the nursery rhymes...
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