I Am Eve: Emily Dickinson's Identification with Eve in the Genesis Narrative

I Am Eve: Emily Dickinson's Identification with Eve in the Genesis Narrative

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Nudity, power, beauty, paradise, knowledge, authority, rebellion, anger, punishment,
and injustice: these are all themes that Emily Dickinson.s poetry grapples with and repeatedly
explores. They are also themes that she found in the Genesis narrative of Adam and Eve in
her King James Version of the Bible.

As a central influence in Dickinson.s Nineteenth Century, Puritan, New England
society, the Bible was a primary text at both Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke, where
Dickinson attended (Sewell 362). At home, Dickinson.s father read a chapter a day to his
family (Sewell 694), and at age 14, he gave her a copy of the King James text (Seelbinder 18).

Everyone in her life encouraged Emily Dickinson to study the Bible, hoping it would bring her
close to God and would convince her to join the church. In Dickinson.s hands, however, the
Bible had the opposite effect.
At age sixteen, Emily Dickinson wrote a letter to her friend Abiah Root, which
contained the following passage:
I have lately come to the conclusion that I am Eve, alias Mrs. Adam. You
know there is no account of her death in the Bible, and why am not I Eve? If
you find any statements which you think likely to prove the truth of the case, I
wish you would send them to me without delay. (L9)
Why would Emily Dickinson choose to call herself Eve, the woman responsible for original sin
and the fall of humankind? Dickinson.s intimate knowledge of the Bible did lead her to
identify with Eve. Through this identification, Emily Dickinson found a way to make the
Bible work for her: it pushed her further away from God and from the beliefs of the Puritan
church. Dickinson.s poetry illustrates her identification with Eve and how this identif...


... middle of paper ...


...ly Dickinson Encyclopedia. Ed. Jane Donahue
Eberwein. Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1998. 159.

Holy Bible: King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984.

Oberhaus, Dorothy Huff. ..Engine against th. Almightie.: Emily Dickinson and Prayer..
ESQ 32:3 (1986): 153-72.

Ostriker, Alicia Susken. Feminist Revision and the Bible. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1993.

Schneidau, Herbert. .The Antinomian Strain: The Bible and American Poetry.. The Bible and
American Arts and Letters. Ed. Giles Gunn. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983. 11-32.

Seelbinder, Emily. .The Bible.. An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia. Ed. Jane Donahue
Eberwein. Westport, Conn: Greenwood, 1998. 17-19.

Sewall, Richard. The Life of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1994.

Thomas, Owen. .Father and Daughter: Edward and Emily Dickinson.. American Literature
40:4 (1969): 510-23.

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