The Future Eve  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Future Eve (also translated as Tomorrow's Eve and The Eve of the Future) (French original: L'Ève future) is a novel by Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. Begun in 1878 and originally published in 1886, the novel is known for popularizing the term Android.

Contents

Synopsis

L'Ève future, variously translated in English as Eve of the Future or Tomorrow's Eve (1886) by Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, has the hero visiting his friend Edison for help with his love life and is given Hadaly, an android duplicate of his mistress (although without her negative qualities). The novel introduced the term "Android" (andréide in French) and revived the concept of the gynoid first brought to the Romantics by Hoffmann's Der Sandmann. As said by the officer in the story, "In this age of Realien advancement, who knows what goes on in the mind of those responsible for these mechanical dolls."


Characters

  • Thomas Edison
  • Lord Ewald
  • Alicia, Ewald's fiancee
  • Hadaly, a mechanical woman constructed by Edison
  • Sowana, Edison's mystical assistant
  • Mr. Anderson, a former acquaintance of Edison's
  • Miss Evelyn, a young woman who seduces Mr. Anderson
  • Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Anderson's wife

Plot

Villiers opens the novel with his main character, a fictionalized Thomas Edison, contemplating the effects of his inventions on the world and the tragedy that they were not available until his invention. Interrupted in his reverie, Edison receives a message from his friend Lord Ewald, who saved his life some years before and to whom he feels indebted.

When Ewald calls, he reveals that he is close to suicide because of his fiancée, Miss Alicia Clary. Alicia is described as being physically perfect but emotionally and intellectually empty. She will say whatever she believes others want to hear. Far from having any ambition or goals of her own, she lives her life based on what she believes is expected of her. Ewald describes his frustration with the disparity between her appearance and her self and confides that though he can have no other, she is so hopeless that he has resolved to kill himself.

Edison replies by offering to construct for Ewald a machine-woman in the form of Alicia but without any of her bothersome personality. He shows Ewald the prototype of the android, named Hadaly, and Ewald is intrigued and accepts Edison’s offer. Edison reveals that he has invited Alicia to his residence at Menlo Park in order to set the process in motion. He then explains to the still somewhat doubtful Ewald how he will interact with the android and how natural it will all feel.

Ewald then presses Edison to tell him why he created Hadaly in the first place. Edison relates a long story about Mr. Edward Anderson who was tempted into infidelity by a young woman named Miss Evelyn. His indiscretion, brought about by the guile of Miss Evelyn, ruins his life completely. Edison then says that he tracked down Miss Evelyn only to discover that she was not as she appeared, rather she was horribly ugly and her beauty was entirely the work of cosmetics, wigs, and other accessories. Edison created Hadaly in an effort to overcome the flaws and artificiality of real women and create a perfect and natural woman who could bring a man true happiness. Edison then takes Ewald back to Hadaly and explains to him the exact mechanical details of her functioning: how she moves and talks and breathes and bathes, all the while explaining how natural and normal Hadaly’s robotic needs are, comparing them to similar human actions and functions.

After the details of the android's functioning and construction are covered, Alicia arrives and is escorted in. Edison convinces her that she is being considered for an important theater role. Over the course of the next weeks, she poses for Edison and her exact physical likeness is duplicated and recordings of her voice are made. Eventually, Edison sends Alicia away and introduces Ewald to his android-Alicia without revealing that it is not the real thing. Ewald is very taken with her and she secretly reveals to him that she is in fact not simply an android but has been supernaturally endowed with the spirit of Sowana, Edison’s mystical assistant. Ewald does not reveal this fact to Edison but instead leaves with Hadaly-Alicia-Sowana. However, before he can reach home to his new life with his new lover, Ewald’s ship sinks and the android, who was traveling with the cargo, is destroyed.

Criticism

The Future Eve has been called equally stunning for its literary experimentation and its virulent misogyny.



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