Milton’s Hero: A Feminist Eve

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Gender equality, a relatively recent development, did not exist socially in John Milton’s time. Women in the 17th century were regarded and treated as second-rate, as men’s enjoyable, beautiful, yet rather inconsequential, subordinates. A cursory reading of Paradise Lost may suggest that Milton shares the idea of the male sex’s supremacy; he preserves the Biblical construction of the Garden of Eden as a decidedly chauvinistic stage and instills in his characters a collective assessment that manhood surpasses womanhood by way of strength, virtue, and intellect. However, by analyzing the language used to describe Eve and her actions, it becomes apparent that Eve’s frustration at her lack of independence mirrors Milton’s own personal unrest with the lower status of women. While her thoughts and decisions lead to her consumption of the forbidden fruit and the subsequent fall from Paradise, Eve’s deeds are not displayed as senseless or a cause for blame because they are a noble assertion of her desire to be equal to Adam, made out of desire for respect and freedom, not of vain self-interest. Though at first glance the story glorifies Adam and elevates his abilities and merit above those of his female complement, through his rhetorical description of Eve’s rebellion, Milton demonstrates feminist principles and indicates dissatisfaction with society’s idea of women’s inferiority. Some might argue that Eve’s ill-fated meeting with Satan in Book IX can be traced to her resolution to work separately from Adam in the Garden. Eve suggests that they tend to different areas of the Garden since when they are together, their efforts yield low results due to the distraction of each other’s presence and because the collaboration limits them to on... ... middle of paper ... ...ive about temptation and sin. Beneath the surface of Milton’s poetry lies a personal thesis advocating a re-examination of the way society regards the female sex. His ideas are manifested in Eve’s experiences in the Garden; the words he uses to express her dialogues, thoughts, feelings, and actions are not only vital to the plotline, but on a deeper level, are crucial to his feminist notions. Works Cited 1. McColley, Diane Kelsey. Milton's Eve. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1983. Print. 2. Medici, Carmen. "Milton and Feminism." Associated Content. 10 Jan. 2006. Web. . 3. Milton, John. Paradise Lost (Norton Critical Editions). New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. Print. 4. Wheeler, Thomas. Paradise Lost and the Modern Reader. Athens: University of Georgia, 1974. Print.

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