Paradise Lost

by: John Milton

Gender

Quotes Gender
My author, and disposer, what thou bid’st Unargued I obey; so God ordains: God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more Is woman’s happiest knowledge and her praise. (IV, 635–638)

Eve describes and accepts her subservient position to Adam before their fall from grace. Eve understands that Adam has a direct connection to God which she does not have. In God’s scheme, Adam receives God’s instructions and passes them on to Eve. Through embracing her position as inferior to Adam’s in the chain of command, Eve experiences contentment and earns the appreciation of God and Adam.

O thou for whom, And from whom, I was form’d; flesh of thy flesh; And without whom am to no end; my guide And head, what thou hast said is just and right. (IV, 440–443)

Eve agrees with Adam’s counsel as they discuss the tree of knowledge in Paradise. Adam advises that they shouldn’t focus on the one prohibited tree and instead appreciate all of their other options in Paradise. Here, Eve blithely agrees with Adam, professes him to be her moral compass, and considers the subject settled. Eve knows that Adam possesses a higher access to God than hers, and she willingly gives over to his teaching. In this vision of perfect marriage, the man serves as the guide to the woman.

But to Adam in what sort Shall I appear? Shall I to him make known As yet my change, and give him to partake Full happiness with me, or rather not, But keep the odds of knowledge in my power Without copartner? So to add what wants In female sex, the more to draw his love, And render me more equal, and perhaps, A thing not undesirable, sometime Superior; for inferior who is free? (IX, 816–825)

Before the fall, Eve feels content with her role and position as Adam’s wife and subordinate. But shortly after eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge, Eve’s view expands, and she begins to feel dissatisfied. As she reasons whether to tell Adam what she did, she rationalizes that she cannot experience true freedom if she remains inferior. The seeds of discord between man and woman sprout once Eve eats from the tree of knowledge.

The bond of nature draw me to my own, My own in thee, for what thou art is mine; Our state cannot be sever’d, we are one, One flesh; to lose thee were to lose myself. (IX, 956–959)

Once Adam learns that Eve has eaten fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge, Adam must decide whether he will also eat of the fruit and condemn himself as well. Adam rationalizes that he must follow Eve, since their shared humanity and intimate relationship unites them. He believes they can’t exist without each other. Adam ultimately chooses Eve over God. Adam’s choice to sin represents a male’s weakness for physicality and emotion over reason and God.

Was I to have never parted from thy side? As good have grown there still a lifeless rib. (IX, 1153–1154)

After the fall, Adam and Eve begin to argue and blame each other for their corruption. Without Adam’s guidance and reason, Eve describes herself as a dead appendage. Eve argues that Adam should have known better than to yield to her suggestion to separate in the garden. Eve says that, as a woman, she was susceptible to fraud since she doesn’t have the same strength of mind as Adam. Through this exchange, Eve continues to position herself as inferior to Adam, portraying a female gender role of subservience.