Rewriting Eve: Reinserting Ideology in Young Adult Fiction


Literature for older children and young adults (YA fiction) has long been identified as having a didactic tendency to moralise and instruct readers (see, for example, the work of John Stephens, Robyn McCallum, Peter Hollindale and others). Although the didactic tenor of YA fiction has softened in the last several decades, in line with a general decrease in literary didacticism from the second half of the twentieth century onwards, one way that writers of YA fiction can still pack an ‘ideological punch’ in their literary productions is to include a character that rewrites Eve, the first woman according to Judeo-Christian religious traditions. Eve symbolism in Western culture is rife; in areas such as art, literature, television and advertising we are constantly bombarded with imagery that emphasises Eve’s nature as supposedly weak, prone to temptation and as a sexual temptress. Because of Eve’s tremendous symbolic power, feminist theologians (for example Deborah Sawyer, Lisa Isherwood and Dorothea McEwan) observe that Eve has come to be regarded as representative of women generally in Western culture.

The implications for YA fiction are significant: if writers of YA fiction (a type of literature that already has strong didactic associations) include a representation of Eve in their work, it magnifies the potential for encoding deeply ideological messages about women. This paper examines representations of Eve in two recent YA fiction series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (1995-2000) and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga (2005-08), and considers whether the series use their Eve symbolism to promote a progressive view of women or whether they simply reproduce the age-old story of Eve/woman as weak, prone to temptation and as a sexual temptress.


Abstract only, young adult fiction, ideology, didacticism, religion, Eve, fantasy fiction, original sin, Philip Pullman, Stephenie Meyer


Further information about this conference may be accessed here