Paradise Lost



With Adam, Eve may also be seen as a protagonist of the epic. In fact, she has the final line of dialogue in the poem. In a speech which emphasizes her central role in what has happened as well as what is yet to come, Eve states: “though all by me is lost/Such favor I unworthy am vouchsafed,/By me the Promised Seed shall all restore” (12.621-23). Milton here assigns the agency for the climactic action of the poem—the eating of the fruit and the following fall from God’s grace—to Eve. At the same time, Eve humbly accepts the honor of bringing forth the Messiah from her seed; thus, Eve is at once responsible for humanity’s Fall as well as its redemption.

Milton repeatedly reminds us that Eve is inferior to Adam intellectually and spiritually, and her inferiority makes her much more vulnerable to temptation. Perhaps Eve’s greatest weakness is her vanity. As soon as Eve is aware of her own existence, she sees her reflection in the water and is so pleased that, like Narcissus, she “pine(s) with vain desire” (4.466) until the voice of God calls her away. Eve’s vanity makes her readily susceptible to Satan’s flattery, and it is through praising her beauty that the serpent weakens her resistance to his lies.

Although there is certainly much that may be considered anti-feminist in Milton’s portrayal of the first woman, Eve does have some positive qualities. Adam praises her ability to converse, to enlighten his mind and provide intellectual companionship as much as he praises her physical beauty. In his characterization of Eve, Milton suggests the viewpoint that though women should not be the leaders of families, their role is nonetheless important. Like Adam, Eve changes after the Fall. She now feels guilt, shame, and even suicidal despair. She displays great strength, however, by accepting reality with fortitude, and even facing the future with hope.

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Essays About Paradise Lost