Milton’s Paradise Lost Essay

4316 words - 17 pages

Milton’s Paradise Lost has been praised as being the greatest English epic of all time, most stunningly in its author's depiction of the parents of humanity, Adam and Eve. How Milton chose to portray the original mother and father has been a focus of much criticism with contemporary readers. One of the main subjects of these comments is in reference to Eve, who, according to many, is a trivial character that is most definitely inferior to her mate. Nonetheless, many do not recognize that, after the fateful Fall, she becomes a much more evolved character. When Eve is introduced to the storyline of the epic, her character is shallow and extremely undeveloped, meant simply for display. She is quite firmly set as being inferior to her mate as a female in a predominantly male world. However, upon her decision to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, her change is dramatic and she is no longer the simple character seriously lacking in depth of intellect or knowledge. Thus, as portrayed by Milton, the Fall of the parents of humanity is, in fact, an educational and developing process for Eve.

Immediately upon the introduction of Eve to the epic she is clearly portrayed as being slightly dimwitted and unsophisticated, and seems to simply exist for the exhibition of her beauty and grace. She is shown as being desirable and extremely beautiful to look upon, as Milton often describes her beauty. Actually, the first time that Eve sees Adam she flees from him in fear, as he was not as beautiful as the image that she saw of herself in a pool of water. In fact, she was so infatuated with the image of herself that she would have remained had God not taken her away to meet her mate: “Pleas’d it return’d as soon with answering looks/ Of sympathy and love, there I fixt/ Mine eyes till now, and pin’d with vain desire…” (IV, 464-466). Milton discusses the scene through Eve and she is the one who describes what goes on. He does this because the scene happens in the past and therefore he uses her to discuss it rather than confusing the reader with a flashback type scene. He also has Eve relate what happened to prove that Eve must indeed be beautiful if she herself was taken by her looks as she discusses how she “pined with vain desire” (IV, 466) for the image of her reflection. In fact, Eve’s beauty is discussed repeatedly. For example, when Satan first sees the human couple, he is overtaken by Eve’s “beauty and submissive charms” (IV, 498). Milton even goes so far to stress her beauty and charms as to have her stun Satan himself with it. Actually, as Satan is on his mission to seduce Eve into eating the apple, her beauty overtakes him.

If chance with nymphlike step fair virgin pass, What pleasing seemed, for her now pleases more, She most, and in her looks sums all delight; Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold This flowery plant, the sweet recess of Eve Thus early, thus alone; her heavenly form Angelic, but more soft and feminine, Her graceful...

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