"Eve's Diary" Themes
The main themes in “Eve’s Diary” are misogyny, the importance of beauty, and the human need for companionship.
- Misogyny: By giving Eve a voice, Twain, who was a supporter of women’s suffrage, satirizes sexist ideas and draws attention to women’s struggles to have their contributions recognized.
- The importance of beauty: Eve’s appreciation of the beauty of nature gives meaning to her often confusing existence, while Adam ignores the importance of beauty, to his eventual regret.
- The human need for companionship: Eve finds herself drawn to Adam despite his many shortcomings, as he offers her only chance for human connection.
Mark Twain grew to be a strong advocate of the women’s suffrage movement, particularly following his marriage and his subsequently becoming the father of three daughters. He considered his eldest daughter his social and intellectual equal and publicly acknowledged that women could determine matters of voting as well as men could. “Eve’s Diary” is a satirical examination of attitudes toward women and particularly of the role of Eve in the Biblical downfall of man. Eve has traditionally been portrayed as devious, a temptress who deliberately sways Adam into disobeying God. Yet in this short story, Eve is characterized much differently. Through her characterization, we come to understand that she represents every woman and the attitudes that women have long struggled to dissolve.
Adam is presented as a distant and even emotionally abusive partner. He first avoids Eve and later leaves her out in the rain for no discernable reason. He isn’t interested in Eve’s passions, and when given the opportunity to speak for himself, Adam scoffs at the way she “loses her mind” over things of beauty. Yet Eve persists in constructing a relationship with Adam because of his masculinity. She doesn’t find him particularly hardworking, gracious, or chivalrous, yet she understands that she is supposed to love him. This leads to a chilling revelation: Eve understands that she would devote herself to Adam even if he “should beat [her] and abuse [her].”
Eve’s commitment to Adam defies logic. It is Eve who discovers fire, highlighting her intellectual curiosity and strength. She does not need Adam to help her flourish in the world; in fact, Adam arrives at her fire later and then dismisses Eve’s efforts, unaware of the magnitude of such a discovery. His reaction reflects an all too common perception of the impact of women on their societies. Eve believes that she is worthy of the “experiment” in which she finds herself and is confident in her own abilities, yet the man she loves fails to recognize those talents.
Eve deserves to be an equal partner in her relationship with Adam as she proves herself capable of navigating their unknown world. Nevertheless, the story indicates that she lives her entire life feeling that she is “not so necessary” in the world as Adam is. What could Eve have accomplished if Adam had recognized her value and supported her passions? This satirical examination of Adam and Eve then becomes a symbolic representation of every couple in which a woman has existed in the shadows, unrecognized and voiceless. Eve acknowledges this in the end when she reflects that she is “the first wife; and in the last wife [she] shall be repeated.” The story indicates that women deserve to be empowered, and men hold a responsibility to support those efforts.
The Importance of Beauty
Eve spends much of her existence in confusion. When she finds herself in the Garden of Eden, she doesn’t understand her purpose. Her initial reaction to the “loss” of the moon is one of great sorrow, for she lacks the experience to adequately comprehend her surroundings. She spends a great deal of energy trying to obtain any indication of favor from Adam and is repeatedly rejected in those efforts....
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