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Some characteristics of Adam, Eve, and God

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Many people look to God for comfort. They live their lives based on His teachings in the Bible. People also look to their parents for comfort and live their lives based on what they teach them. In numerous ways, God is comparable to a parent. Providing comfort, setting rules, and disciplining are three traits of parents that God exhibits.

One way God is similar to a parent is He provides comfort to His children. An example is when people are upset over the loss of a loved one, their parents are there to comfort them. After Cain murders Abel, God gives Eve another son, Seth, to console her.

Another way God is like a parent is He sets rules and advises His children. First, just as parents advise their children not eat certain candies and foods, so does God. God tells Adam and Eve never to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

One more way God is equivalent to a parent is He disciplines His children. One example is how parents scold their children if they hurt their sibling, as does God. After Cain slays his brother Abel, God tells him that the ground that he plows will not grow anything and that he shall be a vagabond for the rest of his days.

Like parents, pretty much everything God does has good intentions, although emotions might get in the way. All the rules and punishments are for the best of His children. The rules provide protection and the punishments teach them not to break the rules again. When they follow the rules, He comforts them and makes them happy. And if one breaks a rule, just like parents, God will always forgive them.

The book of Genesis portrays the story of The Fall in simple terms. Adam is created (Gen. 1.26-27, Gen. 2.7); Adam is told not to eat from the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2.17); Eve is created for Adam (Gen. 1.27, Gen 2.22); the serpent tempts the pair to eat from the tree of knowledge (Gen. 3.1-6); Eve eats from the tree and gives some to Adam (Gen. 3.6); both are punished and cast from paradise for their disobedience (Gen. 3.16-24); Eve is blamed original sin (Gen. 3.12,17). Genesis gives neither character depth nor individuality. Adam is merely the first man; and Eve is his companion: neither is strong nor weak and neither is good nor bad.

Despite this, Genesis’ picture of The Fall clearly lays blame on the corruptible and sinful Eve alone and allows for Adam and, in time, the rest of mankind (Gen. 3.17) to blame her as well. In her poem Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Aemilia Lanyer, takes this basic story and amends both the characters as well as the conclusion. Lanyer takes the blame from Eve and places it on Adam. To facilitate this development, Lanyer characterizes Eve as the foolish and weak attendant, and Adam as the clever and influential leader.

Lanyer uses two methods to excuse Eve from blame: her desire for knowledge and her prevailing weakness. She gives Eve a want for the knowledge from the tree. As Lanyer points out in line 797, “If Eve did make an error, it was for knowledge sake,” (Lanyer in Woods 797), Eve’s error intended no wickedness, only a want to grow. This trait is, like her weak tendencies, not an effective apology. It is an uninspired attempt to contrast her with the unenlightened Adam. Lanyer does not give Eve any strength in her argument and, in fact identifies her as ignorant in her want (Lanyer in Woods 769). This feeble appreciation for wisdom, only adds to Lanyer’s other characterization of Eve as ineffective.

In order to create Eve as a sympathetic character as opposed to a dominant Adam, Lanyer designates a certain amount of subjugated traits to Eve. She is revealed as ignorant (Lanyer in Woods 797) and, although she does resist at first, as being outsmarted by the serpent (Lanyer in Woods 773). She is described as a “…poor soul…” (Lanyer in Woods 773) and without any power over her own actions (Lanyer in Woods 765). It is clear, in Lanyer’s version of The Fall, that Eve’s real predicament lay in her over zealous love for Adam (Lanyer in Woods 801) and her desire to provide both nourishment and knowledge for him (Lanyer in Woods 764). Lanyer also creates the image that, although Eve was not yet mastered by Adam, he should and could have forbade her to take the fruit from the tree (Lanyer in Woods 805) as well as reprimanded her for the transgression.

Furthermore, Lanyer continues to excuse Eve’s fault and the idea of her sinfulness with the view that if she did hold any malice it could only have come from Adam, because she was made from him (Gen. 2.22). Lanyer illustrates this with lines 809 and 810 of Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, “If any evil did in her remain, / being made of him…” (Lanyer in Woods 809-10). With this version of Eve, Lanyer’s defense does is moderately successful; regrettably, she also reveals Eve as a weak and inept. As Lanyer apologizes for Eve’s misbehavior, she creates a character not necessarily better than Adam, but merely less at fault.

In contrast to Eve, Lanyer prescribes Adam with governing qualities to facilitate his responsibility in The Fall. She generates a character in control of the situation with the power, if not the judgment, to choose his own destiny (Lanyer in Woods 795). Lanyer clearly points out that Adam had the authority to restrain Eve (Lanyer in Woods 805), not only proving his master of the situation, but also his influence over his companion. She makes it obvious that Adam alone received the commandment from God and that he chooses not to repeat it to stop the event (Lanyer in Woods 806). Adam is not fooled by the serpent (Lanyer in Woods 796), nor is he interested in the promise of knowledge, he merely wants the fruit to satisfy his carnal needs;

Lanyer expresses this in lines 798and 799, “The fruit bearing faire persuaded him to fall; / No subtle Serpents falsehood did betray him,” (Lanyer in Woods 798-9). By emphasizing his earthly needs and minimizing his spiritual desires, Lanyer has imposed a harsh light on Adam. She has succeeded in accentuating these unfavorable attributes to oppose the traditional more innocent view of Adam that, if not clearly presented Genesis, has been the generalized belief. Lanyer has made it seem as if he were solely to blame for The Fall, exonerating Eve almost entirely.

Lanyer characterizes Eve in two ways and Adam in one. She shows Eve as knowledge seeking and weak and Adam as ignorant. Unfortunately, the knowledge-seeking Eve does not override the tenuous Eve. Adam, on the other hand, is given such overwhelmingly corrupt features that he becomes almost a villain himself, in line with the serpent. It is obvious that Lanyer was attempting to excuse Eve for the sin she has been blamed for, but the techniques that she uses are primitive and elementary. Eve is no longer a flat character, yet the characteristics that she now possesses are hardly forceful. Adam’s villainy is satirical and unrealistic; it is not plausible that he could have contained such mischievousness compared to Eve’s pure innocence. In Lanyer’s attempt to defend Eve she has gone too far the other way and made the apology it self flat and undynamic. True characters are gifted with both good and bad characteristics, not simply one or the other, as well as multiple levels of motivation. Lanyer’s characters lack this and although it is impressive for her to have accomplished the publishing of Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum during the her life time, when looked at with today’s critical eye and expectations it does not carry as much weight outside Lanyer’s 17th century’s misogynistic society.

Works Cited:

The Holy Bible. King James Version. Woods, Susanne. Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999 Woods, Susanne (Editor). The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum: Women Writers in English 1350-1850. New York: Oxford University Press. 1993: 84-6.

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