3 June 2011

Eve and puns

Any dictionary will tell us that a "pun" is a play on words, either on different senses of the same word or on the similar sense or sound of different words. However, what the dictionary does not show is how the use of puns can be applied to the analysis of characters in literature. The first one that comes to my mind is Eve, the biblical character who has appeared countless of times in millions of books and magazines throughout the history of mankind. 

Eve´s personality has been analyzed under different perspectives and to such an extent, that it does not come as a surprise that some of those perspectives or points of view are very often contradictory. Many modern scholars tend to describe her as a character who fought with all her strenth for her own independence. This specific analysis on Eve clashes with the point of view that most authors had until the 20th century. Their  depiction of Eve was very often based on the idea that she was evil, vile and because of her we live in sin. 

Interestingly enough, the words in red have something in common:they are all included in the word "evil". Hence, the word evil sound pretty much like the name of the first woman who, according to the Bible, lived in Paradise on earth, namely, Eve. So, evil is pronounced in English like /eevuhl/ and Eve is pronounced /eev/, as if Eve was contained in the word "evil".For many centuries, Eve has always being described as someone who is evil because she ate from the Forbidden Tree hoping that the veil she thought she had in her eyes would disappear, and she´d distinguish the good from the bad. Consequently, we all live now in sin and we die because of her bad behaviour.
This way to look at the biblical Eve can be explained with the following puns:

Paradise Lost, book 9:6-13
by John Milton (1608-1678)

Those Notes to tragic; foul distrust, and breach  [6]
Disloyal on the part of Man, revolt,
And disobedience: On the part of Heav'n
Now alienated, distance and distaste,
Anger and just rebuke, and judgement giv'n,
That brought into this World a world of woe,
Sinne and her shadow Death, and Miserie
Deaths Harbinger:  [13]

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