- Term Papers and Free Essays

The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost

Essay by   •  July 3, 2011  •  1,534 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,619 Views

Essay Preview: The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost

Report this essay
Page 1 of 7

The importance Milton attached to Eve’s role in Paradise Lost and in the Garden of Eden is now recognised and acknowledged. (Green, 1996) Milton’s treatment of Adam and Eve’s relationship is complex. Sometimes referring to them in ways that indicate equality, (ibid) sometimes stressing their separateness as individuals (ibid) and other times they are complementary halves of a whole. (ibid) Taking on the view that many support; that Milton intended Eve to seem completely inferior to Adam, we can examine Eves role in the fall.

Traditionally, readers and critics have responded to Eves actions with compassion and concern. (Revard, 1973) Two critics who particularly react this way are Dennis Burden and Fresdon Bowes. (ibid) A.J.A Waldock has said that Eve’s sin was caused by circumstance; that bad luck is more involved than a deliberate sin. (ibid) However, in his book, The Logical Epic, Dennis Burden argues that Milton would not allow an event as important as the fall to occur under circumstances arrived by chance. (ibid) Eve must be alone, but not by accident; Adam, by permitting Eve to go out into the garden alone, creates an opportunity for her to fall, therefore the responsibility lies on the person who allowed her expose at the time and not with the circumstance of that exposure. (ibid) Burden believes that Milton intends us to see Adam involved in Eve’s fall. Bowers has contended that when Adam allows Eves departure from him, he “proceeds to make Eve a free agent and reverses their hierarchical order by allowing her to make the crucial decision on which the fate of mankind is to depend” Thus he becomes “responsible” for her fall. (Revard, 1973 p.71) Adam is superior in mind and body (although not in beauty) to Eve. When he relinquishes his authority by letting Eve go forth alone he causes her fall and his own. (ibid) “Is Eve as the lowliest rational creature in the hierarchy of the poem to be regarded as not fully in control of her fate, not, that is, responsible?” (Revard, 1973 p.69)

Eve’s character almost seems childlike at times. Adam looks after Eve and tells her what is right and wrong, many of his duties seem parent-like, perhaps due to the fact that Eve is the original woman and didn’t have parents. Adam may indeed be taking on the role of a parent and a husband. Blame would not be placed on a child for an accident, (e.g. a child falling down the stairs) but rather the parent or carer (of which Adam is to Eve) for improper care of the child.

Adams responsibility for the fall is partially relinquished when previous matters are examined. When Adam is talking with Raphael, Eve separates herself from Adam and Raphael does not demur. (Revard, 1973) Eve independently decides to leave because she would sooner hear all about the astronomical matters that they were discussing from Adam, rather than their visitor, Raphael. “Entering on studious thoughts abstruse, which Eve perceiving where she sat retired in sight, with lowliness majestic from her seat, and grace that won who saw to wish her stay, rose and went forth among her fruits and flowers, to visit how they prospered, bud and bloom.” (VIII 40-45) (Levi, 1996) If Eve was unable to bear the responsibility of separating from Adam, surely Raphael would have warned Adam about letting her go alone that time. Satan might have lurked in the garden on this occasion instead of the following day. (Revard, 1973)

When the Question of responsibility is introduced to the poem it is through the voice of God who is predicting the fall. (Revard, 1973) There the reader is assured that the responsibility is not gods; his foreknowledge does not excuse Adam and Eve. (ibid) “They themselves ordained their fall.” (III 128) Adam’s authority over Eve reflects Gods authority over Adam. (Revard, 1973) God, to man is a ruler to whom man owes love and obedience (ibid) but God rules by appealing to the free choice of man to serve him, but not by necessity. (ibid) If God denies that he man by necessity, how could Adam, who is God’s surrogate to Eve “demand that her state be choiceless” (Revard, 1973 p.72) Eve must be free to give her love and obedience to Adam. If Adam had forced Eve to stay with him, he would have Eve’s without free choice. This would have tarnished the liberty of Eden. (ibid)

Adam has tried to make clear to Eve what her responsibilities are and what her place is in the garden. He has also warned her of the dangers in the garden. Eve knows also of the dangers of Satan by overhearing Raphael talking about them “as in a shady nook I stood behind.” (Levi, 1996) Eve is clearly at a disadvantage in encountering Satan in an intellectual debate; however Milton does lead the reader to question the role of intelligence in the poem. It wasn’t the intellectually able angles “the politically astute Beelzebub and the rhetorically expert Belial” (Revard, 1973 p.76) who unmasked Satan in Book V. Many feel that Adam is guilty of negligence; however, others feel that he is merely an ineffective leader. (Revard, 1973) Stella p.Revard goes as far as saying that God is in fact to blame. Since refusing Eve the permission to leave would break the rules of free will “then God is blameworthy for having left uncompelled the wills of human



Download as:   txt (9.1 Kb)   pdf (110.7 Kb)   docx (11.8 Kb)  
Continue for 6 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 07). The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost. Retrieved 07, 2011, from

"The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost" 07 2011. 2011. 07 2011 <>.

"The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost.", 07 2011. Web. 07 2011. <>.

"The Role Of Eve In Paradise Lost." 07, 2011. Accessed 07, 2011.