Book VIII of John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Book VIII of John Milton's Paradise Lost

As Book VIII of John Milton’s Paradise Lost begins, the “new-waked” human Adam ponders the nature of the universe and the motion of the stars (ll. 4-38). When Adam has finished his speech, Milton takes the opportunity to describe Eve, who is listening nearby. We find Eve reclining in the Garden, but with grace, not laziness: “she sat retired in sight,/With lowliness majestic from her seat” (41-42). This “lowliness majestic” is the central phrase to understanding Eve’s character—she is both humble and glorious. Everything that beholds her is captivated by her “grace that won who saw to wish her stay” (43). Even in this paradise, every other beautiful creation is drawn to Eve. She walks among the “fruits and flow’rs,” and they all light up in her presence (44-47). In line 44, Milton replaces “the” with “her” to describe these fruits and flowers, indicating that they belong to her--she is like a mother to all things that “bud and bloom” (45). He even uses the term “her nursery” to describe Eve’s relationship with the Garden, signifying that Eve nurses the growing things like she would her children (46). As their mother arrives, the plants all perk up: “they at her coming sprung/And touched by her fair tendance gladlier grew” (46-47). Eve is beyond beautiful—not only does all creation adore and marvel at her, in her presence, each created thing is renewed. Her glory is found in her outward appearance and her ability to bring things to life, while her humility is in her character. Contrast Eve to the witch-queen Jadis in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Both are exceptionally beautiful and possess a sort of magic—Eve to bring things to life and Jadis to destroy them. However,...

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...e in the relationship. Certainly Adam could speak wisdom to the animals in the Garden, but he speaks to Eve because she is his equal. She is the one to whom Adam prefers to relate his thoughts, simply because he is enchanted by her. In a sense, she is his “only listener”—the only listener for him. Eve has the choice of how she will receive wisdom, but “Her husband the relater she preferred/Before the angel, and of him to ask/Chose rather” (52-54). Not only does Adam choose Eve to relate his thoughts to, but she chooses him to relate wisdom to her. Though there are only two humans in Paradise, Milton presents the relationship of Adam and Eve as one of choice. Both partners could get what they need from other sources, but they choose to receive wisdom and respect from one another instead. The fulfillment of their needs is more enjoyable in the context of love.

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