The Woman: Reading Between the Lines

Women in literature have mostly been portrayed as either conniving and manipulative, using their “feminine charms” to woo men to do things they never thought they would, or vapid and doe-eyed, doting on their man and rarely opening their mouth to speak an intelligent word.

In the Book of Genesis, the woman is a rather complicated character if you look at her closely and from all sides. It is implied that she is “tricked” by the serpent, thereby suggesting that she is easily manipulated and innocently stupid, but if we take the serpent out of the context of “evil” and suggest rather, that he was simply informing the woman of the truth that she was prohibited to know by God, it seems as though she is eating the fruit because she desires the knowledge that God has. It is said, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” So it seems that she ate the fruit because she desired to be wise. Yet when she offers the fruit to the man, she is seen as manipulative when the man throws her under the bus when he tells God that she gave him the fruit. Because she offered him the fruit without telling him what it was, the fault is hers that he is also cursed to know good from evil. But if we put this entire narrative in the context of the fact that she didn’t know good from evil, we bring her back to being vapid or ignorant.

So here we have the woman who is both ignorant, yet desires knowledge, and innocent, yet manipulative. Therefore, yet again, one must rethink why she desired knowledge. Did she desire knowledge explicitly because it was forbidden to her? Did she desire knowledge because it was revealed to her that something in her bevy of knowledge was lacking? Did she desire to lose her ignorance and gain knowledge? Did she do it just because she was told to do it by the serpent? The reasons for her desire to eat the fruit could tell us more about her character and what kind of woman she is. I do find it interesting that she is portrayed (when you read between the lines) as a (at least) complicated woman with reasons unknown for her deeds and desires, despite the fact that she’s supposed to be portrayed as a 1-Dimensional character whose sole purpose in life was to ruin pretty much everything for humanity.

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One thought on “The Woman: Reading Between the Lines

  1. I appreciate how you bring the discussion to the subjectivity of Eve at the end of your post, by trying to understand the thought process that culminated in her decision to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge. I find Genesis particularly interesting because it is so sparse and does not allow the reader to enter the subjectivity of any character, really– for instance, what was Cain’s stream of consciousness prior to slaying Abel? Why is this transgression perceived as less grave than Eve’s?

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