English Literature » Notes » Milton’s Treatment of Woman in “Paradise Lost”

Milton’s Treatment of Woman in “Paradise Lost”

Adam and Eve are the very first human couple and the parents of the whole human race and the masterpiece of God’s art of creation, primarily lived in Eden which is an indescribable beautiful garden in Heaven. God had given them the liberty to enjoy everything available there, with only one restriction that they were not to eat the forbidden fruit there, but they could not act upon this curb, therefore, God punished them for their disobedience and expelled them from Paradise.

When we make a careful and critical analysis of “Paradise Lost” Book IX, we discover that in spite of having many common features of character and personality both Adam and Eve have a world of difference between them as well. Both of them are made of clay, have steadfast faith in God and equally love each other yet at the same time they are divided in opinion about their work, passion and the fear of an enemy.

As far as Eve is concerned, she possesses female charm and attraction, a suggestive and justifying mind, a rational and convincing manner of conversation, but at the same time she is highly confident, short sighted, jealous and deluded about her powers.

Adam, on the other hand, is an embodiment of sagacity, moderation, contentment, foresightedness, knowledge, mankind, passionate love and sacrifice.

When Eve rationally suggests that they should work separately because when they are together, they waste most of their time in petty things. Adam foresightedly objects the idea and reminds her of the danger of her being seduced by Satan. At this, she pounces upon him for suspecting her faithfulness. She also under-estimates their enemy. Adam tries his best to convince her that they should not separate from each other but she remains unmoved. At last, he retreats and reluctantly allows her to work after her own heart and, thus, they part from each other for the very first time and this very alienation, in fact, leads to their expulsion from Heaven.

Satan, who possesses a great determination and an unyielding power and ever-scheming mind, is, in fact, afraid to face Adam because of his physical strength, intellectual powers, great courage and impressive manlihood. He, therefore, is always in search of an opportunity to find Eve alone, so that, he may succeed in his evil and revengeful designs against God and His master creature. After assuming the shape of a serpent, which is the most cunning of all animals, he managed to enter Eden where he finds his target, that Eve is all alone, busy with her work. He very cleverly starts praising and flattering her that she is “the sole mistress”, “the queen of this universe”, “the empress” and “the humane goddess”. When she, in the state of utter amazement, asks him how he can speak while he is a serpent he relates a fake story of his tasting the forbidden fruit of knowledge and its miraculous effects.

When she tells him about the warning of God that tasting the fruit of knowledge could result in death, he washes her brain by saying that this fruit will raise her to the stature of God and that she will not die because he is a living example before her eyes. She is fully entrapped by the oily tongue of Satan, tastes the forbidden fruit due to short sightedness and over confidence. After eating the fruit she thinks if she dies, God will create another Eve for Adam and he will live a long life of everlasting enjoyment with the new Eve. This very thought arises in her an intense feeling of jealousy for the first time and she mounts to Adam to tell him about her blunder.

On the other side, Adam restlessly waits for her with garland of beautiful and attractive flowers to welcome her back, but she does not reach at the fixed time. He goes out in search of her and finds her on the way with a bough of apples in her hand. She tells him all about the talking-serpent and her act of tasting the forbidden fruit. Adam leaves a deep sigh of grief and scolds her, but at the same time his passionate love for Eve over powers him and he expresses his uncontrollable sentiments of love in the following famous romantic and emotional words:

The link of nature draw me; flesh of my flash,
Bone of my bone, thou art, and from thy state
Mine never shall be parted; bliss or woe.

Thus Adam also eats the forbidden fruit deliberately just for the sake of his love for Eve for Adam feels himself incomplete without Eve. Thus he prefers a woman to obedience of God.

In the end, we can conclude that both Adam and Eve are responsible for their sin of disobedience and their consequent expulsion from Heaven. It is, however, clear that Eve is entrapped by the glib-tongue and the praising words of Satan while Adam falls a prey to his passionate love for Eve.