Paradise Lost

Adam and Eve's Relationship and the Nature of Dominance

Out of all the competing plots and themes in Paradise Lost, arguably the central and most important story is that of humanity’s first members, Adam and Eve, and their self-induced fall from grace into sin. The nature of their relationship is a complex one in which initial appearances are deceiving and in which it is impossible to make any sweeping statements about who holds the authority and power therein. On the surface, Milton adheres to the pervading sexism of his day, creating an Eve that appears to be a submissive and domestic servant commanded by authorities in Heaven to serve her man. In this chauvinistic interpretation, her decision to disobey God and eat the Forbidden Fruit stems from her foolish attempts to buck the natural human hierarchy of female inferiority and become an equal to Adam. However, this reading is complicated by the tremendous amount of spiritual and sexual power with which Milton endows his Eve; she uses that power to captivate Adam with such force that he turns away from God and begins worshipping her instead. Despite her lack of domestic authority, Eve’s endowment with this type of alternative power demonstrates the surprising complexity and value that Milton, the product of a misogynistic age,...

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