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The depiction of the fall of a man in john miltons paradise lost

Critics over the centuries have argued about the portrayal of women and particularly Eve in the poem.

The story of Adam and Eve has led to the establishment of so-called gender roles pervaded through society as the word of God.

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Man is perceived as the dominating figure intended by God to guide the weaker, subservient figure, the woman. When studying the issues of sexism in Paradise Lost there are many considerations that have to be taken into account. Thirdly, whether in Eve, Milton intended to depict the frailty of womanhood or of the humanity in general. Reading Paradise Lost against the Book of Genesis will clarify the doubts regarding the portrayal of women in these two books.

Paradise Lost says that the man was created in the image of God and the woman was created in the image of man, and therefore, their inequality is established at the level of creation. However, the Book of Genesis clearly depicts that prelapsarian Adam and Eve shared an egalitarian position, and inequality was a part of their punishment for transgression.

  1. The felix culpa idea suggests that the Fall of humankind was necessary in order to allow for a greater good to occur.
  2. Again the hairstyles of Adam and Eve also denote their differences. BOOK X Man's transgression known, the guardian angels forsake Paradise and return up to heaven to approve their vigilance, and are approved, God declaring that the entrance of Satan could not be by them prevented.
  3. BOOK 5 Morning comes, but Eve is unsettled — for the first time ever — by strange and disturbing dreams she had during the night, dreams about eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge. BOOK IV Satan now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil, journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described, overleaps the bounds, sits in the shape of a cormormant on the Tree of Life, as highest in the garden, to look about him.
  4. Beyond is the void of primordial Chaos, and Satan flies out into it. One must compare the new state of humankind to the state of humankind before the Fall.

Nowhere has it said that the woman is created inferior to man and the fact that she shares flesh with the man, unites them together in holy matrimony. Even prior to the transgression Milton treats Eve as the vulnerable, weaker half of the man: The fact that they are equal at the beginning is what makes the latter act of making man the ruler of the woman a punishment.

There is a greater level of reciprocity in their relationship than what is suggested in the Book of Genesis. If Eve is to be seen as a brute with human speech, it will violate the very purpose she is created for. After the transgression, God asks Adam why he ate the fruit, and in a self-exculpating tone Adam accuses Eve as the reason for his transgression. In the Book of Genesis, the Lord accepts this answer and decrees the fall of them.

Prelapsarian paradise is essentially based on a hierarchical system, where God is the head, followed by the man and then by the woman. Is Milton suggesting ideas of female emancipation from the chains of patriarchy? Therefore her transgression can be seen as a resistive force to the oppressive power hierarchy of the paradise.

Eve is characterized as the less rational more sensuous creature of the pair. Initially Eve submits to Adam with all her feminine charm: However, later she starts looking for autonomy and identity which is deprived to her even in the manner she is created.

She has no individual self but will always be a crooked rib of the man, literally and metaphorically. On the day of the transgression unable to tolerate his paternalistic care she argues with Adam. Adam refutes her ability to resist temptation, but Eve eloquently stands for her independence.

This can be seen as a sign of her emancipation which she tries to complete by consuming the forbidden fruit. Eve can be seen as attempting to reorder the hierarchy.

After eating the fruits she contemplates thus: She heeds the word of Satan over the word of God, and also aspires to Godhead as Satan attempted to do with his unsuccessful rebel in heaven.

These words are said by Eve after acquiring knowledge of good and evil. Moreover, since it is through Eve that Sin and Death come into existence, she could be Dissanayake 5 seen as the mother of sin, who hitherto only had a father in Satan.

Why you should re-read Paradise Lost

Both Eve and Satan are discontented with the chain of command established by God, and both endeavour to break free, only to end up in further misery and disgrace. Desire to defy and upset the order can be seen as the primary motive of their respective acts of transgression. When Adam and Eve are first created they spent their first day on the paradise in different ways; Adam starts uprightly with a prescience that allows him to name everything he sees except God while Eve stares at a stream unable to recognize her own reflection.

Furthermore, when Adam is inquisitive about the creation of the universe, his desires are considerably satisfied by Raphael. Eve is not even supposed to have a curiosity for knowledge let alone satisfaction of it.

When Raphael and Adam are conversing, Eve is sent out of the way, maybe as to indicate that rational conversations are beyond the comprehension of women. This stance is ironic because Eve is more curious than Adam in her intellectual pursuits as she will be the one to transgress. Adam values Eve for her beauty than for her inward qualities: She is known to have a dangerous feminine charm that can drive men to their doom.

Postlapsarian Adam contemplates thus about women: Adam is questioning God for creating the woman — the creator of all misery. This quotation exposes another angle of sexism by viewing women as Dissanayake 6 mere procreative devices. If any alternative method is found to procreate, women are expendable.

Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton

But the truth is Eve cannot resist Satan, as much as Adam cannot resist Eve. This indicates that passion, desire, vulnerability to temptation are not particularly feminine features but are shared by men and women both. Therefore, what tempts her is her aroused intellectual thirst.

Serpent gives her promises of equality not only with Adam but also with Angels. Serpent is only a catalytic agent accelerating the transgression, whereas the act itself has remote causes rooted in the lowly status given to her in the paradise.

Apathy and exclusion induced Eve. She is excluded from any correspondence with divine creatures. God conveys to Eve through Adam because some hierarchical prejudice prevents direct communication between God and Eve or maybe because Eve cannot comprehend God. The communication line of Satan works in reverse order to that of God.

This again manifests a misogynistic awareness by suggesting a closer affiliation between Eve and Satan than between Eve and God. Dissanayake 7 Even at finding Eve alone Satan exults: Seducing Adam is a difficult task for Satan because he is intellectually superior and talented than ignorant Eve.

Adam had clear warnings about the Fall from the mouth of God himself. He had no external temptation other than Eve asking him to eat it. Yet, still, he consumed the fruit, and by this means he made himself guiltier than Eve. After the disobedience to God, Adam attempts to alleviate his guilt by placing the blame on the woman.

She is associated with fallen images: Again the hairstyles of Adam and Eve also denote their differences. Furthermore, Eve is associated with destructive women of classical times such as Hera, Pandora, Helen, Circe etc. Adam speaks more than Eve, but Eve has the last word in the whole poem. Her final utterance indicates that her offspring will undo her mistake; Christ will be born to overpower The depiction of the fall of a man in john miltons paradise lost and bring Salvation to mankind.

Eve is not the only female character in Paradise Lost. Sin is also a woman, who gave birth to death. These are abstract character, and attributing them feminine aspects such as childbirth is derogatory. Eve and Sin are contrasting figures. Eve is associated with light and beauty whereas Sin is associated with darkness, fear and obscurity. At last this odious offspring. Death is the sordid offspring of the incestuous relationship between Sin and Satan.

Dissanayake 9 Kari Wiest argues that Satan is also feminized: What she depicts as feminine qualities are what society has attributed to women over centuries.

Saying that Satan has feminine qualities such as trickery, vindictiveness, is itself sexist. However, Satan is feminine in his capacity of giving birth to sin. The form and cosmic imagery of Paradise Lost balance gender constructs.

Sexual archetypes are established through such imagery. The sun is the essential source of light for both the moon and the earth. This assures the dominant position of the male element in society. The moon derives her light from the sun, as women derive the light of their life from men. The earth has the feminine attributes of motherhood, nurturing and preservation. Classically Muses are feminine, although Miltonic muses are androgynous in their orientation, shifting their identities from masculine to feminine.

The feminine Muse Urania is allied with nightly darkness: The portrayal of women by Milton has many varied angels. Milton might be adhering to Christian ideological beliefs about gender and sexual hierarchy. Milton is replicating an account already known by people, meaning that he had a limited space for modification.

Federico, Annette and Gilbert, Sandra. Dissanayake 11 Ferry, Anne. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 28. University of Queensland, 1981. University of Pennsylvania Press. Milton, John, and Philip Pullman. Print Wiest, Kari Anne.