The Role of Eve in Paradise Lost

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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,...
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