The main character of “Eve’s Diary” by Mark Twain, written in 1905, is about the first woman ever brought into existence. When she arrives, she knows she is there to fulfill a specific purpose, and she begins to explore the world and explain what she sees around her, including Adam. Eve then starts to compare herself to him when he shows he has inherent differences from her. She creates and loves the beauty in life while he just wants to make some kind of progress and that is it. These comparisons are made by the author exploring Eve’s point of view and how she sees herself in relation to Adam. Nearly all her choices and explorations during this story get tied back into what he is doing or how he thinks, and she feels it is her job to respect him and protect his pride even though he does not do the same for her. Mainly, Twain discusses the inherent differences he perceives between men and women to make a statement about how a woman’s role in the world is to cater to men and subdue their natural abilities to do so.
Eve’s character mentions her observations of Adam a lot, but he never seems to care about what she is doing. She is observant and empathetic and tries to help him retain his perceived masculinity. Her interest in the world makes her of great use as she can name all the creatures and understand what his needs are to get along with him, yet “he does not care for [her], he does not care for flowers, he does not care for the painted sky at eventide–is there anything he does care for, except building shacks to coop himself up in from the good clean rain, and thumping the melons, and sampling the grapes, and fingering the fruit on the trees, to see how those properties are coming along” (Twain 5). Stereotypes paint women as home makers who are not concerned with building their own life of providing for themselves, rather, a man should be doing those tasks for them and allow the women to instead work behind the scenes for them.
Once Eve meets Adam, she only talks about herself in comparison to him. She is interested in new things and nature while he is a loner and wants to make life better for himself. The implication here is that women perceive themselves as different from men, and that men are necessary to decipher who a woman really is. She associates herself with him even though there is no need to as she proves she is supremely intelligent when saying “some instinct tells me that eternal vigilance is the price of supremacy” “that is a good phrase, I think, for one so young” and makes an effort for Adam when he has no drive to reciprocate at all (Twain 1).
Not long after they meet another difference between them is shown, when Eve mentions a dodo and a wildcat, this was done intentionally by Twain to allude to the theme of gender roles. The woman, Eve, was the fragile small bird and the man, Adam, was the big strong bobcat. First, Adam mixes up the two animals which further perpetuates the idea that Eve is more intelligent. In addition to this, during the author’s time in “the early 19th century the roles of women in American society were predominately as cook, wife, mother, and general homemaker in a mainly rural setting. Families were much larger and relied on the women to provide children to perform free manual labor on the farm in order to maintain the family income and welfare” (Curtis 1).
This story makes men the driving force for her actions and even a limitation to what can be done because of his pride. Eve has the ability to name all the animals in the world, yet she tones down her ability in order to “[save] him. And [she] was careful not to do it in a way that could hurt his pride. [She] just spoke up in a quite natural way of pleasing surprise, and not as if [she] was dreaming of conveying information, and said, “”Well, I do declare, if there isn’t the dodo!” [she] explained—without seeming to be explaining”” (Twain 3-4) This also shows how she values herself only based on what she can do for him rather than just owning this talent. It also highlights how Adam does not value her for all she is worth and solely admires her when she is proving her worth as right after this display she says “it was quite evident that he admired [her]” (Twain 4). His personality is opposed to her own and how she genuinely cares about him, yet he is completely superficial. Eve clearly believes that his pride is fragile and it is her job to protect it and be there for his needs. This also shows how Twain thinks of women as crafty people who can manipulate men with ease. Also at this point in the story, Eve says the word “I” an abundant amount. This shows how she only truly knows anything about herself and what her own reasonings are, yet she cares about his feelings regardless. This paragraph is one of the few times they actually interact. She does everything right in this scenario, yet he ends up shunning her anyway.
In conclusion, this story puts the roles of men and women at odds and makes them seem inherently different in intelligence, emotion, and abilities. The main theme of the story was relevant then and continues to be relevant to this day as misogyny and the patriarchy show up in politics, laws, and pop culture. Women are seen as weak and unable to complete tasks as effectively as seen in the wage gap where women make less than men for doing the same job. This is also prevalent in the way women have to live their lives such as being expected to conform the way they dress to “protect men” from sexually harassing her. This story overall shows that these stereotypes have been around for a long time, including what the Bible claims is the dawn of time.
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Originally published in Harper’s Bazaar, 1906.
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