The Temptation of Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost
“Dream not of other worlds,” the angel Raphael warns Adam in Miltons’s Paradise Lost (VIII.175). Eve, however, dreams of another world in which she will gain knowledge and power, a wish that is superficially fulfilled when she succumbs to Satan’s temptation and eats from the Tree of Knowledge. Awakening in the Garden of Eden as though from a dream, Eve searches for her identity and her place in Paradise. Satan provides Eve with a chance to gain knowledge and to become god-like. As Eve is not an equal companion for Adam, she seeks independence from her husband. Shifting her loyalty away from God and Adam and towards Satan and the Tree of Knowledge, Eve strives to find her identity in the Garden of Eden, gain knowledge and godliness, and obtain independence from her unequal partnership with Adam.
In Book IV, Eve recalls awakening to consciousness but she is uncertain of her identity and of her place in the Garden of Eden. Eve's first thoughts are of “where and what [she] was, whence thither brought, and how” (Paradise Lost, IV.451-52), and it is this curiosity about her identity that leads Eve to disobey God eventually. From the moment of her conception, Eve is already distant from God because she awakens in the shade and not in God’s light. Throughout Paradise Lost, Eve is identified with reflections, shadows, and dreams. Representing the “otherness” of Eden, Eve is an outcast and she seeks to find meaning in her life. At the moment of her awakening, Eve is engrossed by her reflection in the water, which she thinks is another being. This watery, wavering image of Eve extends throughout Milton’s poem, and this further puts Eve in a weak position, for Eve is merely a reflection and a shadow of Adam, who is the real likeness of God. Longing for an explanation of her existence, Eve stares at her reflection and would have “pined there in vain desire” (IV.466) if God had not called her away. Persistence and longing are dominant in Eve’s nature; even after Eve learns the Creation story and has Adam for a companion, she continues to yearn for more knowledge. Thus, wishing to secure a place for herself in Eden through knowledge, Eve steadily “moves from uncertainty to security and contentment” (Langford, 120), and shifts her loyalty away from the disembodied God to the more concrete realities of Satan and the Tree of Knowledge.
Possessing “attributes different from Adam, God or Paradise…Eve seeks and has the potential to find alternative worlds in her search for completeness and acceptance in a masculine environment. Her ability to experience alternative worlds is what brings disorder into Paradise” (Langford, 119). Full of self-purpose, Eve explores her surroundings in order to find answers to her questions of identity. Staring at her reflection in the water, Eve feels happy and secure. God, however, tears Eve away from her dream world, her world of contentment. Eve’s brief but...