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Mad Men's Garden of Eden: The Book of Genesis Allusions in 'The Monolith'

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | May 5, 2014 | Comments ()


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Sarah will have the full recap of “The Monolith,” last night’s episode of Mad Men up soon, but I was anxious to get into the Biblical themes of last night’s episode, specifically the parallels with the Book of Genesis. It was apparent that Lloyd Hawley — who was installing the IBM computer in Sterling Cooper’s offices — represented Satan in the episode. “You talk like a friend, but you’re not,” Don says to Lloyd near the end. “I know your name … you go by many names, [but] I know who you are. You don’t need a campaign. You have the best campaign since the dawn of time.”

That campaign, of course, is the temptation of evil, and his name is Satan. The computer itself may have been a more overt allusion to HAL 9000 (and the 2001 allusions were obvious throughout), but thematically, Hawley represented the Devil, and that computer was the apple of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, tempting Don to eat the fruit and be oustered from the Garden of Sterling Cooper

Once Hawley’s metaphorical identity is established, earlier sections of the episode lock into place, too.”These machines can be a metaphor for whatever is on people’s minds,” Beelzebub says to Don. “This machine (temptation) is frightening to people, but it’s made by people,” he continues, offering up the forbidden fruit to Don.

“Human existence is finite, but isn’t it Godlike that we’ve mastered the infinite?” Hawley sneers, a reference to his domain over Hell.

Weiner pushes the metaphor further. While Don Draper is reading Portnoy’s Complaint — which is, at its heart, a book about a man’s battle between his deeply held religious beliefs and his extreme sexual longing (his temptation) — in walks Satan dangling that apple. “You have a light? he says, before tempting Don with an advertising question, drawing him in by playing on his weaknesses. And after making his pitch, Hawley admits that — like Satan was an Angel before he struck out on his own — he was at IBM for a few years. He made “a great product. But they don’t trust it,” he says. Isn’t it there — within the seeds of doubt between man and religion — where Satan strikes?

As soon as that scene ends, Don walks over to Roger’s office, and what is Roger’s secretary eating?

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So Don makes his way to Bert’s office, and tries to sell him on Hawley’s company. But when Bert asks Don, “Have you forgotten the stipulation?” Don responds, “Fine. Tell someone else. The apple is right there.” But Burt shuts him down, and reminds Don that he started the company with a dead man, Lane Pryce, who gave into the temptations of money, a temptation that ultimately cost him his life.

Thankfully, when Don does give into the temptation of alcohol, his guardian Angel Freddy Rumsen is around to save him from banishment, remind him not to take the route of Lane Pryce. “I mean, are you just going to kill yourself. Give them what you want?”



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Sarah Weissman

    The allusions follow, but Don is Eve or Everyman. He left the garden a long time ago..

  • rchase

    To add one other point: Drunk Don talks to God as well as the Devil. When Don dials the phone, (before we know it's Freddy... it could be anyone) he says, "Hey, it's Don. Look at that! I got you... I don't know, I didn't know
    where you'd be... (he looks up and out the window...) you're here,
    there, everywhere."

  • TheSacredAmi

    Rolling stones released sympathy for the devil in 1968

  • OldSchool60

    Mr. Rowles, you've outdone yourself this time.

    The only thing I noticed was the black door / monolith, when he got off the elevator.

    Is this a new thing for Matthew Weiner, or has he been doing this before and I never noticed?

  • sumodo

    Editor?

  • Emma

    Sorry to be that guy but "I know you’re name", really?

  • cruzzercruz

    I don't get how people are calling this season boring. I know some people who are saying there done with the show because "it hasn't gone anywhere." It's gone everywhere! The Game of Throneses and Scandals of the world have sullied their expectations of plot development. Every episode this season has had beautiful moments and rich subtext. I'm more angry than ever that the season is split and we've only got three episodes left.

    Even without this biblical subtext (which is amazing) the episode had a ton of great allusions and flat out awesome moments, but it seems this was a big part of understanding it. Every other site on the internet is perplexed by Don's drunken rant against Lloyd.

  • Ruthie O

    I'm also loving this season. I don't want Don's redemption to be quick and easy. I want to see him work for it, get kicked down, and work some more-- and that's exactly what's happening, with him getting closer and closer each week.

  • Jifaner

    I did not get this subtext at all while watching- I *did* think the IBM guy was evil looking, but when Don was yelling at him I assumed "drunk rant" and that was all. This is a very interesting read on the episode.

  • BWeaves

    Same here.

  • BWeaves

    WHOO-HOO, an IBM 360.

    I learned to program on an Amdahl 470, the IBM 360’s evil twin. Gene Amdahl worked for IBM, and then started his own company to make IBM compatible / rip off products.

    The Amdahl was housed at NERDC, the North East Regional Data Center on the campus of the University of Florida. An appropriate acronym, if ever there was one. It was cooled by an huge jet aircraft engine air conditioner, which froze the entire building, so the rest of the offices in the building were HEATED to bring them up to a comfortable temperature, in Florida. Energy crisis? What energy crisis? It hadn’t been invented yet. The power company is the one that recommended that configuration.

    The punch card room was across the street, next to the Rathskeller, U of F’s eatery in the basement of Johnson Hall. I called it the Rat Cellar, because I really thought that was its name. It burned down in the 1990s.

    Once you punched your program on cards, you walked across the street to NERDC. During that couple of minutes in the Florida heat and humidity, your cards swelled, and wouldn’t feed through the card reader in the lobby of NERDC, so you had to repunch a bunch of them using the card punch in the lobby, which was really only there for fixing mistakes.

    Once you got your program read, you waited 20 minutes to an hour for a schlub to come out and file your output of green bar paper. Then you rifled through the files to find your output. Then you flipped to the back of your output only to see the dreaded IBM error code, I can’t remember its number. You’d go look it up in the foot thick error code manual in the lobby, that was chained to the wall so nobody would steal it, only to find out the description was “Programmer error. Please contact the programmer for a fix.”

    Now that was REAL programming.

    Fun Fact: Punch cards were the same size as dollar bills from the turn of the 20th century. They were created that size so they could be stored in cash register drawers, which were already available in that size. They didn't need to build new cases to hold the cards. Dollar bills were downsized in 1929 to the size they are now.

  • OldSchool60

    Wow.
    You should do a show about the pre-PC days of the computer industry.

  • BWeaves

    Unfortunately, writing a program out by hand on paper and then keypunching it, and then sitting around waiting for it to run, and then reading green bar, doesn't make for interesting viewing. I had no love life.

  • Nunchucko

    Click.....clickclickclickclickclick. (Brain explodes)

    And what was a rather strange and boring episode requires a rewatch. Maybe its a mistake that i don't read the bible, i miss out on so much subtext in my tv shows/movies.

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