Like other works that Twain penned, “Eve’s Diary” was not met with the warmest of receptions when it was published. The text was paired with illustrations depicting Eve’s life in the Garden of Eden and after the Fall of Man, and some readers took offense at the choice of the illustrator, Lester Ralph, to draw Eve without clothes. Though modestly portrayed and with almost no detailing, this vision of a nude Eve compelled some to ban the book from library shelves. This presents a great situational irony that was not lost on Twain. The Biblical Eve lived without clothes until she disobeyed God; to portray her in any other way would be a falsehood. Genesis 2:5 also states that “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Therefore, the natural state of humankind was a complete acceptance of the body in a way that included no shame. Ironically, some in Twain’s reading audience did find the images shameful, which highlights humanity’s fall from grace and propensity to see the world through a corrupted lens. In a letter to a friend, Mrs. Whitmore, Twain pointed out that “The truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.”
Despite the controversy the work created, Twain’s work found a receptive audience because of its format and point of view. Choosing to present the story as a diary makes Eve’s story more personal. This format allows for Eve to be reflective and pensive, taking the reader into her confidence as she attempts to make sense of her new and confusing world. It allows for a focus on Eve’s emotions, which is in line with her character. In the earliest lines, she reflects that crying a little is “natural,” demonstrating her comfort in her own complete emotional spectrum.
The diary format also provides Eve with a unique gift: her own voice. Eve is often seen as a sly temptress in interpretations of Genesis, tempting man beyond his reasonable limitations and swaying him to disobey God; in his story, however, Twain allows Eve the freedom of expression, and she proves to be much more than simply a devious partner who leads man astray. In her diary entries, Eve comes across as intellectual and curious. She is filled with a sense of wonder at the natural world, and she demonstrates a strong sense of responsibility in making sure that creatures in the Garden are well cared for. Eve questions, makes predictions, and modifies her analyses of the world when presented with conflicting information. She is an independent scientific thinker, not simply a secondary “helper” to Adam. By giving Eve her own voice, Twain also presents a compelling argument for the freedom for all women to speak up and be heard. As the first woman, Eve is representative of every woman, and Twain’s Eve demonstrates a sound capacity for reasoning. This dispels many arguments that were made against the women’s suffrage movement, a movement which Twain himself strongly supported. In a speech made to the Hebrew Technical School for Girls, Twain commented, “I should like to see the time come when women shall help to make the laws. I should like to see that whiplash, the ballot, in the hands of women.” It is in this spirit that the voice of Eve rises up through her diary and proclaims the value of a woman’s experience.
“Eve’s Diary” also dispels the myth that women are overly emotional and that intense emotional responses have no benefit. Instead, readers are able to see the value in Eve’s deeply felt connection to the world around her. She recognizes the unparalleled wonder of the moon in the night sky and imagines taking stars from the heavens in order to decorate her hair. She is nurturing and intuitive, instinctively longing to care for...
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