Throughout modern society nothing symbolizes the fall of humankind more than a woman with feminine flowing hair and luscious lips biting into a large apple. While the biblical account evoking such imagery remains the primary authority, John Milton in Paradise Lost enlightens beyond the allegorical, offering a complexity of character and purpose. In this epic, readers are guided along humanity’s fall from grace, contrasting the ideal union of man and wife alongside harsh consequences that emerge from dangerous engendered perspectives.
From its inception, the human race was built upon a singular perception, an outlook based in patriarchal ideals. God, a supreme creator, armored in precision, creates man in his own image. It is inside this divine state that Adam is born, shaped from the Earth, his journey unfolds. Awakening in the splendor of Eden, Adam immediately recognizes his bond with a higher power, asking fellow creatures in the garden to expound upon the glory of his maker, “Tell me how I may know Him, how adore, from whom that thus I move and live” (XIII. 280-281) Outward from the account of his birth, readers are instructed, led toward patriarchy, following the use of a distinguishing pronoun “Him”. Milton throughout the text renders a strict Christian theological perspective, showcasing a phallic authority that spawns from the dawn of creation.
In the garden, a seemingly perfect being, Adam, is aligned within the sphere of God, joined by their dualistic and shared image. Yet as Frye Northrop points out, “In the soul of man, as God originally created there is a hierarchy…the reason… the will, and the appetite” (Northrop, 458). It is with little surprise that such a perfect body does not remain whole, as Adam takes notice of what surrounds him.
Humanity starts out overwhelmed by an internal weakness, an initial separation from God. With irony, Adam’s realm is filled with a wide variety of splendorous living creatures, and yet he remains the sole caretaker in the garden, doomed to happily exist only a patron to his maker. Yet, while common perspectives consider the sin of the indulgence of the forbidden fruit to be the first instance of human weakness, as A.J.A Waldock in, The Fall, observes: “It is obvious that Adam and Eve must already have contracted human weakness before they can start on the course of conduct that leads to their fall…” (Waldock, 455). Among the natural definition of what it means to be fallen, readers can discern clarity and “to put it another way they must already be fallen before they can begin to fall (Waldock, 456). It is as lonely bachelor that Adam’s single flaw of “wand’ring thoughts and notions vain” introduces the idea of imperfection into Paradise (XIII. 187). Here, Adam begins the quick descent of humankind in the wake of humanity’s first mistake: reasoning with God.
Adam, in the garden notices the paired and properly mated creatures, and becoming lonely for a partner of his own, argues the...