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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 |

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | May 5, 2014 |

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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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.