Reinventing Literary History- Cregan Joselyn Wohl Essay
EveReinventing Literary History- Cregan Joselyn Wohl
Paradise Lost by John Milton2/16/99
It is obvious to the reader that John Milton blames Eve entirely for initiating the
original sin and thus losing Paradise. It is she who convinces her husband to allow them
to work separately, and it is she who is coerced to eat the fruit that was expressly
forbidden by God. John Miltons view is patriarchal, but involves a contradictory
description of Eve as logical, for men at that time did not view women as intelligent.
Miltons demonstration of Eves ability to analyze Gods commands with reason and her
own judgment emphasizes his opinion that in order to succeed one needs only to have
faith in God, which supersedes all intellect, for God is the most knowledgeable being.
Adam has the undying faith necessary to remain in Paradise, but Eve obviously does not
and is therefore responsible for her sins, and for their banishment.
In deciding how Adam and Eve will carry out their daily labors, Eve wants to
work apart from Adam and to divide their labours because
While so near eachother thus all day
Their task they choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on, which intermits
Their days work brought to little, though begun
Early, and thhour of Supper comes unearnd (ix, 220-224).
Eves rationalization for working separately from Adam is that she thinks that they will
be able to get more work done considering the fact that they will not be distracted by each
other. Adam feels protective over Eve and is fearful that the malicious Foe/ Envying
their happiness, and of his own/ Despairing, seeks to work them woe and shame/ By
sly assault (ix, 253-256). Adam is taking into careful consideration what God has
warned them about Satan, and wants to prevent a situation in which the serpent could
attack an alone and vulnerable Eve. Adam pleads for her to leave not the faithful side/
that gave thee being for The Wife…/ Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,/ Who
guards her, or with her the worst endures (ix, 265-269).
Adam is wary of Eves innocence and vulnerability and therefore does not want
her to put herself into a situation in which Satan can get to her. Eve is not fearful because
she places reason before her acceptance of Gods frightful warning. She questions:
How are we happy, still in fear of harm?
But harm precedes not sin; only our Foe
Tempting affronts us with foul esteem
Of our integrity (ix, 326-329).
Eve is reminding Adam of the fact that they still possess the free will to do what is right
or wrong despite what dangers they might come across. Adam is finally convinced and
orders Eve to Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more;/ Go in thy native innocence,
rely/ On what thou hast of virtue, summon all,/ For God towards thee hath done his part,
do thine (ix, 372-375). Eve is eager to go and even though she has provided good
justifications for her leave, is foolishly confident that she will do the right thing, foolish
because she is not as fearful of Gods warning as Adam.
Eve goes about her labors and is portrayed by Milton as guilty of luring the devil
towards her with her beauty, making him love her and then hate her because he cannot
have her or be as beautiful as her. Her graceful Innocence, her every Air/ Of gesture or
least action overawd/ His malice…but the hot hell that always in him burns…soon ended
his delight,/ and tortures him now more, the more he sees/ Of pleasure not for him
ordaind (ix, 459-470). He becomes more passionate and eager in his rebellion against
her because of her beauty, ironically.
Satan, in the form of a serpent, then goes on to convince Eve that the fruit from
the tree of knowledge made him speak and think like a human and would in turn make
her think like a god and know the difference between good and evil. The dire snake
was still able to lead Eve our credulous Mother to the tree of inhibition, root of all our
woe (ix, 644-645) despite the fact that Eve knows Gods command. She states :
Of the Fruit
Of each tree in the Garden we may eat,
But of the fruit of this fair tree amidst
The Garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat
Thereof, nor shall ye touch it, lest ye die (ix, 659-663).
Gods command is loud and clear in stating that the fruit from the tree of knowledge is
forbidden. God is making a command that he expects to be followed by Adam and Eve.
When Eve does in fact partake of the forbidden fruit, her rash hand in evil hour/ Forth
reaching to the Fruit, she pluckd, she ate (ix, 780-781), she is credulous because she
is naive to the serpents temptation. She is willing to be open minded and to take into
consideration what the serpent has to say, using reason to determine her actions instead of
blindly adhering to Gods command, as Adam would probably have done. Milton
suggests that, since Eve does actually commit a wrong, her philosophy on the fact that
we live/ Law to ourselves, our Reason is our Law (ix, 653-654) is not a valid reason for
undermining the word of God.
Eve is, afterall, swayed to question Gods intentions when the serpent asks her
about the fruit being forbidden, saying: Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe,/
Why but to keep ye low and ignorant,/ His worshippers (ix, 703-705). Here, the serpent
is committing the greatest sin of all by questioning Gods integrity in his commands. One
is never to question Gods word which is the supreme authority. He even goes as far as to
question whether envy can dwell/ In heavnly breasts (ix, 729-730). The serpent is
placing god in a different light and forcing Eve to distrust Gods intentions.
This forces Eve to contemplate the reasons why she was forbidden the fruit. She
asks: What fear I then, rather what know to fear/ Under this ignorance of Good and Evil/
Of God and Death, of Law or penalty? (ix, 753-755). Eve cogitates that if she does not
possess knowledge of Good and Evil, then she can have no understanding of what she
should and shouldnt do. Eve begins to utilize the free will that she realized she had to
determine her own actions through rationalization as opposed to faith. She thinks that in
order to follow a command, one needs to understand why they are following it, and in
order for her to understand why she must break that command. This is a difficult
situation that Eve finds herself in, but being curious, and willing to experiment with free
will and actually think for herself as an independent being, separate from God, she
decides to feed of the forbidden fruit.
Milton makes several points in blaming Eve for the fall of Paradise. He is
making a general statement towards faith in God, saying that without undying faith, one is
at fault. Eve did not demonstrate undying faith because reason limited how much she
believed in Gods intentions, and she therefore sins. Another point is that when women
try to go off on their own and think for themselves they fail miserably. Milton
emphasizes a womans
inability to think without her husband, because when Eve goes off on her own and tries to
use logic she sins. The Serpents words replete with guile/ Into her heart too easy
entrance won… and in her ears the sound/ Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregnd/
With Reason, to her seeming, and with Truth (ix, 733-738|). Milton is insinuating here
that the serpents malicious lies seemed like the truth to ignorant and naive Eve. Eating
the fruit explicitly forbidden by her creator, she is guilty of the fall of Paradise, despite
her obvious intelligence and reasoning. The irony of Miltons argument is that Eve does
have a well functioning brain, but he final judgment is wrong. Women may be intelligent
but they are not wise because Eve has sinned against God, and there is no worse act that a
Protestant can commit. In order to be successful in life, one must possess wisdom, and it
seems that Milton does not place it within Eves character, but in Adams character, the
man. In conclusion, even though a woman can think analytically, she cannot make wise
judgements on her own and is susceptible to mistakes and sins, usually brought about by