Importance of Preserving the Union in John Milton’s Paradise Lost
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The Importance of Preserving the Union in Paradise Lost
Critics have long argued over the power structure operating in the gender relations of Milton's Paradise Lost. However, to really understand Adam and Eve and the intricacies of their relationship, it is necessary to view them in terms of a union, not as separate people vying for power. Because they are a union of contraries, the power dilemma is a moot point even though a hierarchy exists; it is a hierarchy of knowledge, not of power, and it in no way implies that Adam needs Eve any less than she needs him. Actually, they both need each other equally as much because they each have strengths and weaknesses that are complemented by the other&emdash; this necessarily leads to their interdependency. They are opposites, each with their own limitations (which Milton makes clear particularly through their creation narratives and their pre-fall relationship), who come together to form a very powerful and cohesive union. Everything that Adam and Eve do throughout the story of Paradise Lost, most obviously during and after the Fall, is directed at preserving their union. The balance of their relationship changes after the Fall and allows for the redemption of the union as well as humankind.
Milton shows the opposite natures of Adam and Eve throughout their creation narratives. Adam is created during the day, and his creation emphasizes the heat of the sun:
As new wak't from soundest sleep
Soft on the flourie herb I found me laid
In Balmie Sweat, which with his Beames the Sun
Soon dri'd. (8.253-56)
The sun is both light and heat, and it plays an important role in Adam's creation: "The sun helps creation by drying Adam" (Flannagan 441). Conversely, Ev...
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...woman: they are two forces which must remain in balance, or if they change, they must change according to each other and come to terms with a new union. The relationship of Adam and Eve changes greatly in the course of Paradise Lost and though they lose much of what they begin with, they end with what they need: each other and a newly defined union whose terms they both accept.
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Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Roy Flannagan. New York: Macmillan, 1993.
Webber, Joan Malory. "The Politics of Poetry: Feminism and Paradise Lost." Milton Studies. Vol. 14. Ed. James D. Simmonds. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1980. 3-24.