Eve Illustrated – Literature with Beautiful Curves
As suggested in “Mark Twain’s Diaries of Eve and Adam”, and as illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook, Eve has beautiful curves. She is lithe, slender, trim, rounded, shapely, nimble, and graceful. Adam looks like a derrick, or maybe architecture. Eve, standing on a rock, head tilted back, watching the flight of a bird in the sky, is beautiful. Adam resembles a reptile.
It’s no surprise that Twain made Eve more physically attractive than Adam. I suppose he could have written a completely farcical story about the first human creatures and made them much different than readers would expect. Instead, he stuck with one of his trademark approaches, humor by exaggeration, and poked fun at feminine and masculine stereotypes. I’m glad he did. Exaggerating stereotypical characteristics is generally more humorous than the outrageousness of pure farce.
That’s not to say Twain objectified Eve’s beautiful curves. His humor was never crude. But he did cast both Eve and Adam in ways readers would expect, then he either paid respect to certain traits associated with gender (Eve’s beauty) or made fun of others (talkative Eve, reclusive Adam). By doing so, Twain risked offending some readers who object to stereotyping. Farcical humor, unmistakably outrageous, cannot offend since nobody takes farce seriously. But Twain, by poking fun at various stereotypical gender traits in the diaries of Eve and Adam, was bound—as usual—to offend somebody, and he did. And sometimes he still does.
Eve in the Altogether? Oh my!
As it turned out, even by merely describing the beautifully curvaceous Eve, unclothed as she was before the fall, Twain offended. But that’s only because Twain’s story, “Eve’s Diary”, published in 1906, included numerous illustrations of Eve in the altogether. Lester Ralph illustrated her as Twain had cued, but very discretely. Nevertheless, the trustees of the library in Charlton, Massachusetts made news by banning the book because of at least one of Ralph’s illustrations (dipping toe in pool).
The news amused Mark Twain. “It appears that the pictures in Eve’s Diary were first discovered by a lady librarian. When she made the dreadful find, being very careful, she jumped at no hasty conclusions—not she—she examined the horrid things in detail. It took her some time to examine them all, but she did her hateful duty! I don’t blame her for this careful examination; the time she spent was, I am sure, enjoyable, for I found considerable fascination in them myself. Then she took the book to another librarian, a male this time, and he, also, took a long time to examine the unclothed ladies. He must have found something of the same sort of fascination in them that I found…”
Marc Johnson-Pencook also illustrates Eve with beautiful curves just as Twain described her (watching bird). So far nobody has directly objected. It would be difficult to understand why anyone would. Our mass-media age has acclimated everyone, including young children, to sights of flesh more daring than the discrete display of innocently nude Eve before the fall. Consequently, we felt safe including this story in our Adapted Classics collection for middle-school readers. If someone ever does object, I’ll blog about it and let you know.