My thoughts about the Lilith-Eve Dichotomy
  • 1. Point of all this:
    • a. There are basic themes in stories
      • One of them is the choice/selection between opposites
      • (choice is not always made by Adam)
    • b. Archetypes/stereotypes necessary in brief art forms,
      • e.g., movies, children's literature, opera, musicals, ballet, fairy tales, songs, television, plays
    • c. There is a lot of playing with this form:
      • there is no one "right" choice: depends on Adam
      • if there is growth of a character, then lots of roles get switched
  • 2. My basic plot line:
    • Adam and Lilith in Eden
    • Lilith leaves
    • Adam and Eve in Eden
    • major event or new knowledge forces them to leave
    • fire or some other barrier bars their return
    • Adam and Eve go off to live in the real, ordinary world
  • Like Ko-Ko in The Mikado, I have a little list, but the task of filling up the blanks I’d rather leave to you.
  • A plot structure in which someone chooses between two opposite characters may be a time-honored way to create a story and all this is just, Duh!
  • Still, there may be something to be learned from what kind of opposition is used: good/evil, justice/mercy, pretty/ugly, rich/poor, night/day, upper waters/lower waters, heaven/earth, ocean/land. The Bible, and literature, are filled with pairs of opposites. It's interesting that the first opposites in the Biblical creation are more endpoints on a scale than 0/1 opposites with nothing in-between.
  • Setting Lilith and Eve up as opposites doesn't do justice to the complex personality of either of them:
    1. Eve is not the pliant, subservient woman who submits to her husband's authority. She is the first person who asserts herself and acts independently (albeit misguidedly). Adam follows her lead. Biblical Eve is not the meek, middle-mannered, innocent woman that I may be describing. She initiates the eating of the fruit, Adam is the one who meekly follows her. She is the last creature created; some have said that shows her superiority to the rest of creation. She is created to be a help meet for Adam; (Gen 2:18, KJV). The Hebrew can mean against, but certainly not under. Although the idea of original sin shows up a little in Jewish tradition, it's not as important as it seems to be in Christianity.
    2. Lilith starts out in a relationship with Adam; she couldn't be any closer to begin with (according to some Midrashim) and leaves because she is not happy with the terms of the relationship (again according to the Midrash), not to find herself or establish herself as an independent person.
    3. Most well-developed characters are a mixture of Lilith and Eve. They can be seen as either one of them according to the way you look at them. Jane Eyre is shy and a plain and a servant---Eve---and Blanche Ingram is one of the first families of the county and outgoing and dominates the conversation and is beautiful and a leader---Lilith. Or, Jane Eyre is Mr. Rochester's intellectual and moral equal and brave enough to seek out a new life when the old one doesn't satisfy her and uncompromising when necessary---Lilith, while Blanche Ingram is looking to be a relationship and is inferior to Mr. Rochester in kindness and understanding and curiosity.
    4. And in many stories, people grow from one type to the other or reveal themselves as the opposite of what they originally appeared as.
    5. Megillat Esther: It is a story full of not only opposites but reversals. Esther assumes Vashti's place, Mordecai takes on some aspects of Haman---not only taking his position in the court, but also authorizing the killing of lots of people. (I agree they are not the same.)

      Steinsaltz in Biblical Images points out that Esther becomes a temptress and ends up transgressing mitzvot in order to save her people. She could have been in a rule-abiding Jewish marriage, but she would not have saved them.

  • Translation matters: If Eve comes from Adam's rib, she seems to be less than him. If she comes from his side, then she may be just as important (not the word I want).