Who Really Lost Paradise? The Role Of Women In Paridise Lost Essay, Research Paper
Who Really Lost Paradise?
The Role of Women in Paradise lost
Dr. R. Nemesvari
Feb. 15, 2001
Every single person in the history of the world has at one time or another been confronted by the question of where they belong in the world. It was not always that difficult for some to place others however. In Paradise Lost, Book IX, John Milton claimed that women were subordinate and inferior to man, and Eve precipitated both her and Adam?s fall because she did not recognize her proper place in the grand scheme of things. In Milton?s world women were domestic beings and obedient to men. Women were also inferior beings then men and thus more succumb to temptation. However, humanity lost Eden because Eve did not accept her position in relation to Adam?s. To be somewhat fair, Adam was also responsible for the Fall, but in Milton?s mind Eve was more at fault.
To John Milton, a Puritan, the woman?s place was in the household and to be obedient to her husband. Eve, being the first wife, was to be the model all wives after were formed around. In Paradise Lost, Book IX, Adam declares to Eve, ??for nothing lovelier can be found in woman than to study household good and good works in her husband promote.? (233-235). Adam reminds Eve that a good wife is one that will do work around the household, and praise and encourage her husband. Her life revolves around keeping her husband happy and successful. Not only is the woman?s job to tend house, but also she is also incapable of protecting herself. When Eve asks to leave Adam?s side to work on her own, he first denies her saying that the wife, ?where danger or dishonor lurks, safest and seemliest by her husband stays, who guards her, or with her the worst endures.? (267-269). Eve is told that she is not able to protect herself and that is Adam?s job, and the wife?s duty is to stay by her husband?s side. Finally, as stated above, Eve had to ask Adam for permission to go tend the garden by herself. When Adam finally gives it, though reluctantly, she takes it as a great step. She says, ?With thy permission? the willinger I go.? (278-382). She would not leave without his permission, and when she finally receives it she rejoices in it. The role of a good wife is to listen and obey her husband; to do what he says is right. After all, according to Milton, women are inferior are more succumb to temptation.
Many people in Milton?s time felt that women were more dangerous and less equal than men. This sentiment is mirrored in Book IX. However it is not only the male characters in Paradise Lost that convey this view, but Eve herself. When trying to persuade Adam to let her leave she tells him not too worry for she does not, ?much expect a foe so proud will first the weaker seek.? (382-383). Satan would not go after her if he were as proud a foe as they have heard. Instead he would first go for Adam, the man, the superior human, since he views himself so highly. Satan as well expresses a slightly similar view. He is worried about Adam, ?Whose higher intellectual more I shun? foe not informidable.? (483-486). Yet Eve is, ?? divinely fair? Not terrible, though terror be in love and beauty?? (489-491). Satan agrees with Eve that Adam is the greater of the humans, yet instead he is afraid he could not persuade Adam, but Eve is only strong in beauty and not as strong intellectually. He could persuade Eve easier then he could hope with Adam. Not only is she easier to tempt through her weaker state and lack of intellect, but also because her body rules her. Milton, the narrator, states that as she stood trying to argue through the serpent?s line of thought, ?the hour of noon drew on, and waked an eager appetite.? (739-740). Milton illustrates the concept that women are controlled through their bodies. Eve?s hunger made her more susceptible to temptation. Women are intellectually and willfully weaker than men, ruled not by their minds but feelings. Thus since Eve is not capable of reasoning or fighting the serpent and her feelings she is on the brink of Falling.
Eve falls because she forgot her place in the Great Chain of Being (the idea that everything is arranged in a hierarchy of being, level in the world, with God as the top). When she confronted the serpent, she should have gone straight to Adam, as the order of things declares. Yet she denied authority and asked the serpent, ?where grows the tree, from hence how far?? (618). Eve decided to solve the problem herself rather than go to Adam, like she should have done. This decision leads her into another mistake: her attempt at reason. When confronted with the tree and fruit, she attempts to reason her why through the situation, yet she simply fails horribly. ?Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die. How dies the serpent?…This intellectual fruit, for beasts reserved?? (763-768). Eve tries to determine the solution through faulty logic. She determines that the fruit is only for beasts, or that she will not die, among other things. She does not think that the serpent did not die because it never ate the fruit, nor is it a normal serpent. But the finale of her fall comes when after eating the fruit she proclaims, ?And render me more equal, and perhaps a thing not undesirable, sometime superior: for inferior who is free?? (823-825). The final moment of her fall comes when she believes she can be equal to, or superior to Adam and maybe God. She becomes proud of her new state of perceived godhood; she will be greater than her station. She has fallen but Adam has not, at least not yet.
In Paradise Lost, Book IX, Adam does fall, as he does in the bible. Yet in Paradise Lost Adam falls because of a moment of misguided love and devotion for Eve. Adam, when hearing when she did asks himself, ?How can I live without thee, how forego thy sweet converse and love so dearly joined? Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.? (908-916). Adam?s only mistake is that he does not go to God for help, his authority, yet in a moment of despair decides to Fall with her.
In Book IX John Milton?s Christian epic Paradise Lost, Women are portrayed as familial workers and in submission to men, as well as lesser beings who are easier to lure and thus more dangerous, yet Eve falls because she does not accept her station in the hierarchy of being. Adam does also fall, yet it is because of his love for Eve and no other reason, whereas Eve committed many mistakes leading to the Fall. In Milton?s world women were less equal than men and had hardly any standing in his world. Not only were women less equal, they were seen as the fruit of all the world?s evils, not only in the beginning, but in any age. Women were the devil?s doorway to Milton?s world and could not be trusted to any extent. An extremely scary and horrible way to view the world: where half are one step closer to being demons then anyone else. Thankfully today it has started to turn around, and who knows, maybe someday men will be seen as the bringers of doom. There is probably more evidence to support that theory
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