Analysis Of ' The Two Great Sexes ' Essay

Analysis Of ' The Two Great Sexes ' Essay

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The “Two Great Sexes:” Feminism and Eve in Paradise Lost
Most versions of Eve’s experiences in Eden before the fall are never truly explored, instead adhering strictly to the biblical text and focusing on her role in the fall. Milton, however, offers a radically different depiction of Eve. Her active involvement is not constrained only to her deception and fall. Milton goes beyond her portrayal in the Bible, depicting her prelapsarian role in Eden. While the hierarchical order of all creatures, including men and women, remains intact, Milton portrays an Eve who works directly alongside Adam. She is able to think and act for herself and exhibits her independence throughout the story. Milton’s Eve in Paradise Lost, then, is a feminist, rejecting the idea of feminine inferiority and proving her equality of character.
Gilbert argues that Milton’s depiction of Eve teaches “of course the story of woman’s secondness, her otherness, and how that otherness leads inexorably to her demonic anger, her sin, her fall” (370). In her opinion of Eve, however, Gilbert ignores the hierarchical order of Eden. Just as God is above Jesus, so Adam is under God. It would make sense that Eve, created second, would fall under Adam in the proper order. But her “secondness” does not necessarily imply inferiority. As a result, Eve’s submission to Adam does not make her inferior. McColley argues that in “retaining some degree of subordination for Eve, [Milton] purges that state of all suggestion of weakness or wickedness, inferiority or limitation” (35). They each have unique gifts with which to glorify God: for Adam, reason, and for Eve, passion. Adam’s status comes simply from both being created first and from having the gift of reason, which must, in t...


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... discovered that Eve had been deceived into choosing disobedience herself. Eve did not deceive Adam into sinning; he knowingly placed his own selfish desires above obedience to God. Eve appears the stronger of the two because she does not purposefully choose death.
After the fall, it is Eve, not Adam, who first recognizes her responsibility and repents. Though she herself is devastated by the situation, upon seeing Adam lying on the ground in torment over his sin, she reaches out to him with “soft words to his fierce passion” (10.865). Her strength of character is shown through her ability to look past blaming her husband and Satan for her actions. Adam, on the other hand, responds with vicious words, shouting, “Out of my sight, thou Serpent” (10.867). He continues to attempt to blame her for his sin, refusing to acknowledge the full responsibility of his actions.

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