Friday, October 21, 2005

The Diaries of Adam and Eve

I never even knew about this soft-hearted little book Twain/Clemens wrote. The first part he wrote in the late 1890s from the point of view of Adam, discovering the effusive, garrulous Eve, frustrated with her mystifying habits as well as those of the bizarre creature she spawns (good old Cain), which he mistakes at first for a kangaroo, and later rules out that he is a fish, though Eve will not allow him to throw baby into the river as a test. This Adam is a comical, fin de siecle Deborah Tannen, only in this case men are from Eden and so are women. But, while Eve bothers and distracts him at first, Adam concludes, “After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve….it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her” (31).

The poignancy comes from reading the part that is Eve’s diary. I’m not sure one even really has to know that Clemens wrote this part about fifteen years later, in 1904, shortly after his wife, Livvy, died. The style of Eve’s diary is entirely different, more lyrical. While Adam’s short sentences communicate merely the events that occurred (on one day, his report is merely “Pulled through.”), Eve describes her surroundings enthusiastically, loving even the stars, saying “I wish I could get some to put into my hair” (36). But in her descriptions, Eve reveals that she knows the way she chases after Adam, always naming things before he can get around to it, always talking and disturbing him, annoys him. Nevertheless, she says, “this kind of love is not a product of reasonings and statistics. It just comes” (62). Most poignantly, though, she wants to stay with him, to “pass from this life together” (62). The most heart-wrenching part, though, if we know that Livvy died before old Sam Clemens, is the last passage, where she says (you’ll forgive the long quote):

But if one of us must go first, it is my prayer that it shall be I; for he is strong. I am weak, I am not so necessary to him as he is to me—life without him would not be life; how could I endure it? This prayer is also immortal, and will not cease from being offered up while my race continues. I am the first wife; and in the last wife I shall be repeated. (63)

Oh sure, we can write it off as nineteenth (more accurately early twentieth) century sentimentality, but it’s very sad. The last line is from Adam’s point of view, “Wheresoever she was there was Eden” (63).

The Diaries stretch out over the great intertext to Don Delillo’s White Noise, in which the protagonist worries throughout the story, as he thinks of his wife, “Who will die first?” (Delillo 30). Maybe it’s a universal thought; inherent in commitment is the end of commitment. A happy thought as the leaves fall on a rainy day.

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