Wisdom vs. Vanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

Wisdom vs. Vanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Wisdom vs. Vanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost


In the seventeeth century, women were not permitted to embrace in the power of knowledge. John Milton portrays the only female character in his epic poem, Paradise Lost, as a subservient creature caught in a seemingly misogynistic society. Milton states Eve's location in the great chain of authority of his time quite clearly with her inferiority to man repeated frequently throughout the epic, especially amplified in Book IV and Book IX. Milton uses the character of Eve to represent the ills that can befall mankind after she (the woman) breaks the chain of authority in which she was placed. A twenty-first century reader might perceive Milton's theodicy on a woman's place in society to be inhumane as well as appalling, however, during his time women were accepted by society and themselves as subordinate on the chain of hierarchy. They were to be treated properly by their man but were to walk two steps behind their superior male counterpart at all times. Even though Milton's blatant description of Eve's role in the created world is unequal, the twenty-first century reader accepts this concept and enjoys the passionate power that the character has over the reasonable male authority figure.
In the traditional epic structure and in Book I of Paradise Lost, the reader is immediately introduced to the main action of the story being told, the narration opens with the middle of the story (media res) and uses flashbacks to develop the plot. "Of man's first disobedience…Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?…the infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived the mother of mankind"(PL: BK 1, L 1-36). It is stated quite clearly...


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...ind and originated from Eve's persistence to separate from her commander and remove herself from her place in the chain of authority.
Book IV is a pivotal book due to the fact that it sets up what is to come and foreshadows the fall in Book IX. Milton gives Eve the simple power of submission to prove that vanity can appeal and overpower even the most virtuous and intellectual of beings. Eve, as a woman, is to love, honor and obey her husband. These words are vows of marriage that are no longer acceptable in today's society but these words are what exemplify the marriage of Adam and Eve. Eve is supposed to submit to her ultimate authority, who is Adam. Adam, in Book IX submits to Eve's unreasonable discourse on separation. The implication of a ruler succombing to the power of passion is quite intense and the consequences of this are serious and life changing

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