Extracts from Adam’s Diary
“Extracts from Adam’s Diary,” published by Mark Twain in 1893 before “Eve’s Diary” in 1905, is not as charming, humorous, and unforgettable as “Eve’s Diary,” perhaps because he was not moved when he wrote “Extracts” by his wife’s death in 1904 as he was when he composed “Eve.” For “Eve” reminded him of her, the woman he loved dearly and who he missed. Yet the two books are complementary, both are very clever, both very funny, and the two mock, even ridicule, the conventional teachings of religion, especially the leadership and organizations of the various religions and the often ridiculous ideas about the religions that people developed out of fear, fear not thought. Even the idea that the loss of the Garden of Eden was a catastrophe is seen in this love tale to be untrue. While “Eve” examines the biblical Garden of Eden parable and the relationship between men and women from Eve’s perspective, “Extract” gives us Adam’s view, in which he tries, somewhat unsuccessfully, to justify his behavior, but the general scheme in “Extract” is similar to “Eve.”
Eve is the intellectual in the tale, Adam is the unthinking redneck. She is curious about the world and wants to experience, know, and enjoy everything that is not dangerous. Adam is not curious. He’s convinced he knows all he needs to know. She enjoys talking; he grunts. He goes over Niagara Falls in a barrel, oblivious to the danger that she tries to explain to him, but which he ignores.
He complains that she talks too much and “littered the whole estate with execrable names and offensive signs: This way to the Whirlpool. This way to Goat Island. Cave of the Winds this Way.” She even put up a sign “Keep off the grass.” He is cannot understand why “She engages herself in many foolish things: among others, trying to figure out why the animals called lions and tigers live on grass and flowers, when, as she says, the sort of teeth they wear would indicate that they were intended to eat each other. This is foolish, because to do that would be to kill each other, and that would introduce what, as I understand it, is called ‘death’; and death has not entered the Park. Which is a pity, on some accounts.”
God is not involved in Twain’s version of the Garden of Eden tale. Adam and Eve did not leave the Garden because they ate an apple or any other fruit. Eve tells him that the serpent told her that all nature broke out in war because of a joke Adam made, which the serpent called the “First Chestnut.” Adam recognizes that he and not Eve is to blame.
They were in fact not in a Garden but in Niagara Falls, the name Eve gave their estate. Adam complains. Why she gives the estate this name “I am sure I do not know. Says it looks like Niagara Falls. That is not a reason; it is mere waywardness and imbecility. I get no chance to name anything. The new creature names everything that comes along, before I can get in a protest. And always that same pretext is offered – it looks like that thing…. My life is not as happy as it was” before she came. “It used to be so pleasant and quiet here.” After Adam told his joke, his chestnut, and had to leave Niagara Falls, she tells him that they need to work for their living. He agrees, and thinks, “She will be useful. I will superintend.”
Being as lazy as he is, he concludes “I believe I see what the week is for: it is to give time to rest up from the weariness of Sunday. It seems a good idea.” Later, he notices that Eve rests on Sunday. “I have come to like Sunday myself. Superintending all the week tires a body so.”
He considers Eve not too bright. “She told me she was made out of a rib taken from my body. This is at least doubtful, if not more than that. I have not missed any rib.” “She has taken up with a snake now. The other animals are glad, for she was always experimenting with them and bothering them; and I am glad, because the snake talks, and this enables me to get a rest.”
Eve’s nature does not change throughout this book. She was always industrious and awake to her surroundings. He awakes slowly, and finally recognizes her worth, but it’s too late for her. At the book’s end, after her death, he says, “After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside without her. At first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit.”