The Garden of Eden, 1986
Literature has always been one of the most influential aspects of western culture. People see relevant themes and ethical guidelines carried out by their beloved characters and then they apply them to their lives. While Hollywood can have the same impact, literature has a long and rich legacy of impacting the people. Further, there are certain expressions that can be relayed in print that Hollywood usually cannot achieve. There is deep insight and there are rich metaphors. This is perhaps no more evident than in the work of one of the greatest authors in recent centuries, Ernest Hemingway. His book The Garden of Eden was actually published after his death. As such, it is an incomplete work. But there is a lot of latitude in this book and much that can be gleaned.
The Garden of Eden is a piece that taps into the emotion of the reader. The reader will see a reflection of the relationship that they have in their own lives. The emotional turmoil that they have endured is expressed onto the pages in a brilliant way that truly captures what they have felt. Whether somebody has felt love for a spouse or heartache when love has been lost, this book interacts with those emotions. The book begins with two newlywed lovers vacationing on their honeymoon. But during what is supposed to be a vacation of deep bonding, sealing the marriage and preparing for the future, affair is already lingering in the air.
Some literary critics speculate that this parallels Hemingway’s own experience of his honeymoon. After all, the main character is a young writer. Novelists tend to write about other writers because they resemble themselves. It is almost a way of writing oneself into the narrative. The character may have comparable traits, quirks, a way of thinking, or they may experience something similar. In this case, the story seems to parallel the experience Hemingway had. When he was on a honeymoon with his new wife, it is alleged that he had eyes for an exciting young woman who far outstripped his current love. He eventually came to remarry this woman.
Traditionally, a love triangle is thought of as one individual having two lovers who are competing for her or his affection. However, the triangle is usually incomplete because those two lovers do not love one another. That is something unique about The Garden of Eden. While the young author has fallen in love with another, his new wife has also fallen in love with the same woman. This affair elicits a number of different emotions and themes. One would expect that the new marriage would be in turmoil, with the husband and wife sparring, one party very jealous, angry and betray. But far from it, both parties are competing to begin a relationship with this new woman for whom they both have fallen in love. However, it is the husband who begins to have an affair with the wild young woman.
This is a theme that one would not anticipate in the day of Hemingway’s writing. One can easily imagine how the concept of gender roles could make its’ way into contemporary literature. It is a prevalent theme in modern, western society. It is constantly in the news, on the debate platform, even in the court of law, and is a recurring source of controversy. The modern man has become accustomed to the theme of gender roles. For that reason, one may not appreciate the novelty of this theme in The Garden of Eden. But it is a reflection of Hemingway’s creativity and the way that he saw the world.
Throughout this work, Hemingway seemed to question whether there should be any distinction between gender roles. After all, both of the newlyweds fell in love with the same woman, obviously seeming to depart from the traditional model of marriage. This idea of two women falling in love with one another would have been viewed as scandalous in that culture, a few decades ago. The reader would have been overwhelmed by a spicy, romantic novel in which all of the rules and establishments about a relationship have been broken.
But the theme of departing from gender roles goes a little beyond that. Rather than merely relaying a story of forbidden love (as seems to be implied by the title The Garden of Eden) Hemingway brought out more theme that would only flourish in society and really establish themselves decades later. Namely, his characters challenged how people conceive of gender. Influenced by their newfound love, the newlyweds began to identify as androgynous, meaning that there is ambiguity in their gender. They dyed their hair and became “twins” so that there would be no distinction between them relating to gender.
A New Theme
Perhaps this idea of androgyny had been under development throughout the years and Hemingway did not know how to relay it in a creative way. Authors often have a thousand different ideas that they would like to put into writing. But they can only get to so many of them. Whatever the reason, The Garden of Eden was the first time that androgyny appeared in Hemingway’s work, and it was not published until decades after his death. Oddly, it may be said that the world waited until it was ready to hear this message. With the cultural acceptance of androgyny, The Garden of Eden has been referred to as an oddly contemporary piece of literature.
Despite any opinions that one may have of the themes represented in The Garden of Eden it promises to be an enticing and thrilling novel that will introduce the reader to a number of different emotions and ways of looking at the world that many did not even know existed. It rose to become a best-seller in the year that it was published and should not be overlooked.