Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Adam’s Color

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Émile Zola (1840–1902)

Adam’s Color

From “Sidoine and Médéric”

IN the natural sciences the most interesting study is that of the various species of one genus of animals. But the human genus offers an especially attractive subject for scholars because it pretends to have cost its Creator a whole day’s work, and to belong to a different order of creation from all other beings. Let us, then, examine the different races of the great family of man. Remain in the sun, so that you may see our brothers, and read in their faces the truth of my words. At the first glance you will feel convinced that, to the disinterested observer, their faces are equally ugly in all countries. In every country one may, I know, meet with certain faces that possess a rare beauty of outline; but that is all pure imagination, since the races cannot agree on any absolute idea of beauty, each admiring what his neighbor despises, and a truth holds good only in proportion as it holds good always and for all men. I will lay no further stress on this universal ugliness. The human races are four in number: the black, the red, the yellow, and the white. And besides there are intermediate hues. It would be possible, by searching long enough, to run through the whole gamut of possible colors. But there is one question, the only one that I wish to dwell on to-day, which confronts every one who desires to make knowledge accessible to all. The question is this: Was Adam white, yellow, red, or black? If I declare him to have been white, being myself white, how can I explain the strange differences in color which I notice in my brothers? The latter, no doubt, think of their first father under their own image, and are equally puzzled when they look at me. The point is a knotty one, we must confess. Those who make a business of the higher sciences will probably explain the fact to you by the divers influences of climate and food, by a hundred fine reasons difficult to foresee or to comprehend. I will make myself plain; you will understand me quite easily. If men of four colors exist to-day—the black, red, yellow, and white—it is because God, on the first day, created four Adams: a white, a yellow, a black, and a red one.