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Adam and Eve: Breaking the Social Construct With John Milton's Paradise Lost

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Man above woman, or woman above man? For the entirety of human civilization, this question of gender hierarchy has been divisive issue. Regardless, Milton does not hesitate to join the heat of the battle, and project his thoughts to the world. Since the publication of Paradise Lost, many of Milton’s readers have detected in his illustration of the prelapsarian couple, particularly of Adam, a powerful patriarchal sentiment: “he for God only, and she for God in him” (Milton, IV.299). In essence, this idea declares that Adam and Eve possess unequal roles – Adam is better than Eve, as men are better than women, in accordance to the deeply conventional reading of the relations between the sexes. Eve’s purpose for Adam makes her less spiritually pure and thus farther removed from God’s grace.
Throughout literature, especially in Milton’s time, the gender disparity between men and women has been unfairly defined: men are reasonable and therefore should lead, while women are passionate and thus should be led. However, these roles have often been misinterpreted, and have resulted in the idea that only men are reason manifest, while only women are passion incarnate. For example, in The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Bobbo is rational in his approach to solving problems – count everything in monetary value – while Ruth often cries and evokes great emotion when facing struggles (Weldon, 20-24). However, Milton does not support this conventional idea of gender roles, as oftentimes Eve takes on Adam’s role as the voice of reason in sustaining the Garden of Eden, and vice versa. In Paradise Lost, Milton refutes the hieratical construct of gender inequality, by reversing the roles of Adam and Eve in terms of reason and passion, and instead prop...


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... God’s creation in her eyes. Equally, by embodying reason, Eve is able to gain the benefits of knowledge through experience, thus bringing her closer to Adam and God. Finally, in my examination of the Paradise Lost, I could not perceive Milton’s patriarchal or misogynist sentiment, as do many of his readers. Eve’s virtues are not inferior to Adam’s, and Adam has to learn some of her virtues, as she has to learn his. In this way, Milton does not stratify the value between male and female; they are simply human. Although the question of gender hierarchy may never be aptly answered, Milton in Paradise Lost states his controversial estimation of the ideal gender relationship – equality.



Works Cited
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Gordon Teskey. New York: Norton, W. W. &, 2005. Print.
Weldon, Fay. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. New York: Ballantine, 1985. Print.



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