Separation Scene of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Book IX: A Feminist Study.
One of the grappling themes of this poem is the theme of Free Will. This concept came up during the 17th century when people started becoming aware of their surroundings. The Parliament was questioning the monarch, Charles I about his expenses, policies and methods of ruling. In fact, he was the first ever ruler to be executed. And Milton, being an effective intellectual participant, found himself right in the centre of these revolutionary changes. There was a genuine attempt to understand the Bible and its teachings. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the idea of Fall of humankind seems to be meeting with that of Free Will, time and again. Eve’s assertion to work separately is in fact an assertion of this very free will. She believes that working separately will only lead to speeding up of their job of gardening. But this personal awareness is labelled by critics as an act of violation for it contradicts Adam’s wishes. One only asks why Adam’s wishes are so important. Why is Eve’s decision not given the same credibility as that given to Adam’s? Eve was Adam’s “help meet” (help mate).This is a fundamental problem. Does Eve exist only to help Adam? Is Milton trying to say that the phallus is primary? If Eve indeed was created only to help Adam, is not her position being compared to that of animals?
It is assumed that Adam and Eve are already ‘fallen’ in the Separation Scene because the inferior position that Eve holds in the hierarchy i.e. God – Adam – Eve, has already been subverted. A renowned critic, Fredson Bowers says that Adam’s respect for Eve’s liberty, though imitating God’s for his own, is the first step in the fall. “Adam repudiates his duty and breaks the hierarchical chain of being. He allows Eve as a free agent to seek temptation because he cannot bring himself to enforce authority on her undisturbed passion and beauty...in his role as a protector, Adam had no right to relieve...
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