As I re-read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy I find myself thinking about the story of Adam and Eve. The story of Adam and Eve is the Biblical story of Mankind’s creation and their fall from Eden or Paradise.
Adam or man has a single origin. He was created by God’s word and in God’s image on the fifth day. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1.27) The first woman was also created this way. She is often referred to as Lilith because unlike Eve she is created equal to Adam. Lilith left Adam when he refused to accept her equality. This makes her either unfallen or the first to fall.
Eve has a longer creation myth of her own that appears later in Genesis. Adam names the animals and finds no help mate:
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Gen 20-4)
God puts Adam to sleep and creates Eve out of Adam’s rib. This makes Eve a literal part of Adam. She is created subservient because she is only part of man. She is also created with an innate wish to join with man and become whole through that joining. Eve, unlike Lilith, is not whole by herself, but exists only as a support for Adam.
This puts a different light on the idea of the fall as Eve’s fault. Original sin is woman’s because she ate the apple first and because she seduced her man into eating it. Yet, since Eve was created as part of Adam she is perhaps incapable of independent action. She seems to represent not a woman, but an extension of Adam that he can have sex with.
Lilith is the woman, created by God as man’s equal and opposite. As already mentioned, Lilith left Eden before the fall. This should make woman unfallen. Instead, Lilith is portrayed as the mother of demons. Lilith is seen as the betrayer who left Adam to the seducer, Eve, who destroyed Paradise. Yet, is Adam not able to think for himself? When Eve ate the first apple from the Tree of Knowledge there was nothing to force Adam to eat the second. Woman could have fallen alone.
In Paradise Lost, Milton makes the argument that Adam fell for love. Adam knew what he would lose if he ate the apple, but was unwilling to stay in the Garden alone. Forced to choose between innocence alone or knowledge with Eve, Adam chose to stand by his love. This is a lovely way to view the fall but doesn’t explain how it is then woman’s fault. Adam makes a conscience decision to fall. Eve has discovered something new and wants to share it with the man she loves. In spite of eating from the Tree of Knowledge Eve does not understand the consequences of her actions. She is betrayed by the snake. That said, is knowledge really the beginning of all evil?
Atwood’s MaddAddam series would say yes. In our world today, science is the new God. The world Atwood envisions, where the corporations have taken over and science and money sit on twin altars is all too easy to see as our future. Knowledge does not equal wisdom. Especially when much of that knowledge is in the hands of people whose only goal is making money. We could easily destroy our planet and ourselves in pursuit of the all mighty dollar. Hopefully, we are not at the point where the only solution is a Biblical flood. Yet, starting over without a clean slate is very hard. If capitalism is destroying the world what can we replace it with? How can we replace it?