Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Luisa Valenzuela’s “The Sin of the Apple” narrates the overbearing attitude of an apple and its disastrous effect on the fruit. A moral tale about incurring what one deserves, the fable follows the unrestrained behavior of the apple whose tempting appearance causes men to salivate, until such time the villainous serpent ripens it and makes it fall.
With a haughty, conceited tone in the initial paragraphs, the apple dismisses the longing gaze of men, which suggests objectification of the male species’ opposite sex: the female. The apple being made to feel as an object of desire, its way of reciprocating thus is pointing at the men’s “voracity.” Giving the apple a feminine characteristic is a telling construction of how men and the society at-large are informed about women: that they are arrogant, vain, a mere object, anything that generates men’s catastrophe.
The apple also boastfully mentions allusions of how its race has become an archetype in the history of human civilization. For example, it is “a descendant…of Paris’ apple,” which implies that only a fruit of her elegance matches the proportions of the fairest Olympian deity, the goddess of beauty Aphrodite. It goes on to feed on conceit by relating itself “to the scientific apple of Newton, the apple that has done so much for the human race” by helping establish the Law of Motion. If not for the apple, the natural principle of physics would have remained a distant dream, hence the fruit’s boasting. To intensify the wide gap between its tantalizing beauty and the tempted men, it uses another literary reference—Aesop’s fable on the fox and the grapes—if only to look down on men who can only sourgrape or eat their hearts out, at most, because the apple, in its greenness, “[doesn’t] intend to budge” and “[hasn’t] the slightest intention of falling.”
The next episode changes the tone of the apple from that of egotism to that of paranoia, which seems to suggest that women are capricious—ever fickle with their emotions. When the snake that represents yet another cause of man’s downfall (and a controversial “she” at that) appears before the fruit, the latter is agitated because the serpent “remind[s] [the apple] of the frailty of [its] species.” The snake serves as a reminder to the apple that humans indulged in sin because of it, and it is not far to think to equate sinning with tasting the apple and associating with the snake. In which case, the grand state in which the apple holds itself is now being confronted by “the great shame” of the original sin that is disobedience to God. The apple hopelessly denies that “[n]o one remembers Adam and Eve any more, no one thinks about the original sin” but the fruit itself ironically remembers the fateful event. This embarrassing episode for the apple tells that it cannot make a consummate boasting, after all, because the fruit has its share of shame.
The erotic episode sees the apple feeling “the shame mounting through the stem, it makes [the fruit] hot,” and the apple blushes and marvels at how red—how sensually impassioned—it is. In here we are reminded of how our ancestral parents Adam and Eve, after taking a bite at the apple, harbors shame for their nakedness. They have sinned because of the apple; now the apple takes its turn to indulge in sinfulness and feels the very shame that it is. This sinning is amplified by the fruit’s ripening.
As a consequence of the apple’s sinning, “it fell” as did the biters of the Biblical apple. What is interesting is the comment of one of the men who picked the fallen apple for a bite: “It’s only natural.” So this is the way of nature: for women to gravitate—a patriarchal confirmation of the fallible creatures that women are. The casualness in which the comment was spoken says so much about the disdain men cast women in.
The only redeeming grace—one that is seen fit for being placed at the penultimate part of the text—is the time when one of the men “took the first bite of the apple.” This is a subversion of the Biblical episode wherein the ancestral mother, Eve, took a bite first before giving it to her partner. While it may be argued that only men were on the ground waiting for the apple to descend, the fact that it is not a woman this time who first bit at the fruit somewhat provides a salvation for the female-associated apple which was generally scorned in the text for its vanity, fallibility and condescension. It is a man who displays fallibility this time.
Unless the feminist movement gains full ground in crushing the patriarchal ideology which holds the female species in contempt, women will not be able to repopulate the mainstream and will always remain the sinful apple that men so much anticipate to fall.