Twain on Relationships, part 3


Here are the links to Part OnePart Two, and Part Four.

In re-reading Mark Twain’s Diary of Adam and Eve, I was quite surprised to discover, in addition to more proof that Twain is the wonderful humorist that we all know him to be, but to also find that he had keen insight into the human heart. All too often, people can be funny but at the expense of others. In my mind, empathy for one’s subjects is what separates a true humorist from run-of-the-mill hacks.

When creating his characters for the Diaries, Twain decided to portray Adam as an aloof “guy”, happy to be left alone in the Garden, but willing to put up with the foolishness of the other “creature”; you know, live and let live. Yes, he feels put upon by many of her ways, but she is living in the Garden, too, so, well, there you are.

It’s Eve’s fascination with Adam, though, that I think Twain shines true. She loves everything in the Garden, but her diary is filled with her interactions with and thoughts about Adam. They seemed to me to be spot-on, given the verse in Gen. 3 that says, “Your desire shall be toward your husband.” Eve’s desire is definitely for connection with Adam; she tells how she loves to watch him, to spend time with him, to talk to him. But his aloofness sometimes causes her sorrow:

THURSDAY.—my first sorrow. Yesterday he avoided me and seemed to wish I would not talk to him. I could not believe it, and thought there was some mistake, for I loved to be with him, and loved to hear him talk, and so how could it be that he could feel unkind toward me when I had not done anything? ….
But when night came I could not bear the lonesomeness, and went to the new shelter which he has built, to ask him what I had done that was wrong and how I could mend it and get back his kindness again; but he put me out in the rain, and it was my first sorrow.

The illustration from the 1906 edition is touching:


Later in the diary, Eve makes the observation that sparked this entire series:

Tuesday—Wednesday—Thursday—and today: all without seeing him. It is a long time to be alone; still, it is better to be alone than unwelcome.
[my emphasis]

I know that Twain is a humorist, a writer of entertaining fiction, but every once in a while, a writer makes a statement that is so accurate that you recognize it as Truth. Eve endures loneliness because that is preferable to being unwanted.

Better To Be Alone Than Unwelcome

When I read that line a couple of months ago, I was taken aback by that simple statement, stunned at how profound it was, and had to stop reading for a bit. It’s true, isn’t it? It’s sad, but Twain, over 100 years ago, hit upon the exact predicament of people in loveless, sexless marriages. Oh, it’s true that refusing spouses want their Other to be in the house with them, to be married to them, but the Other is unwelcome in the bedroom.

We’re coming into the holiday season, and for the CSL household, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Christmas movie watching. I have a number of Christmas movie musts, and one that is always on my list is the now-classic Home Alone. We all know the story of that movie, of how Kevin ‘wished’ his family away, and eventually became lonely. But (and Forgiven Wife will appreciate this), it hit me that a comma might make the difference between a movie title and a disheartening truth for so many people:

Home Alone
Home, Alone

Twain’s Eve realizes an important truth: rather than be in the company of someone who doesn’t want you, it is better to be alone. As we are coming into this year’s holiday season, with its focus on God and family, it saddens me to think of those who will be home with their families, but alone in their homes.

Stay tuned for Part 4



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

6 responses to “Twain on Relationships, part 3

  1. Jack

    “it is better to be alone than unwelcome”

    This is so unspeakably true.

    Truly, at some point, the cognitive dissonance caused by living within the forms of marriage without the emotional and physical bonds that should go with marriage is too much, too painful and disorienting to bear.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Twain on Relationships, part 4 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Phil

    I’m not so sure about being too much to bear but living in such a marriage is certainly more difficult than living alone as the constant rejection is demoralising and painful to the point where it has altered my physical and mental health somewhat. However, to give up on marriage without first exhausting every avenue is, I feel, to undermine marriage itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack

      Phil, I agree.

      I don’t know if this is directly relevant to this discussion, but I will share a recent anecdote from my marriage.

      My wife has said a number of times that when I get very withdrawn and silent she experiences it as violent and abusive…and yes, those are her words, and to me – as a man living in 2016 and as a lawyer – those are extremely loaded words…people literally go to jail when words like that are slung around.

      It occurred to me that although I thought I’d clearly expressed my experience and feelings about sexlessness and touchlessness, I might not have communicated very well. So I told her earlier this week that when “we” get touchless and sexless my experience of it is violent and abusive, and withdrawal and silence are just my response to that.

      I think she finally grasped how it feels. I told her that maybe 80%, maybe more, of how I receive affection, respect and affirmation in our marriage – at least rightness – comes from touch and sex. I think I might have seen a light bulb illuminate. Time will tell, which is really back to Phil’s point, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Twain on Relationships, pt. 1 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  5. Pingback: Twain On Relationships, part 2 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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