Paradise Lost Gender Roles

1845 Words8 Pages
While Milton’s retelling of the biblical tale of man’s origin within Paradise Lost is true to the bible, he manages to reinvent it in a slightly different manner – a manner that brings to light new questions about the roles Adam and Eve played in the fall of human kind. Speaking more specifically, his retelling of the fall of man seems to bring up questions about how gender operates within the biblical world and how it may relate to the time Milton comes from. At face value, the portrayal of Eve suggests that she is inferior and subordinate to Adam. There seems to be a stark contrast between Adam and Eve: where Adam is strong, rational, and intelligent, Eve is naïve and narcissistic. These differences between Adam and Eve are not only evident;…show more content…
The text seems to suggest that her reaction to the pool is indicative of a fatal feminine flaw, narcissism. When Eve sees her reflection in the water, she is captivated by the beauty of the image and only tears her eyes away once she is told it is her reflection. This is usually perceived as Eve becoming self-absorbed and vain. This is pointed to as the fatal flaw that allows her to fall to the temptation of Satan and while this can be read as misogynistic, it can also simply be that her captivation was simply a limitation of her knowledge. As she gazed into the pool, she believed that she was looking at another being and another sky, “Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky. /As I bent down to look, just opposite /A shape within the watery gleam appeared, /Bending to look on me: I started back /It started back; but pleased I soon returned /Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks /Of sympathy and love: There I had fixed /Mine eyes till now” (4, 457-464). At no time in the passage does Eve show interest in herself other than asking initially who she is. While this does show that she is foolish, it is hard to say if she is truly narcissistic. As she gazes into the pool, she is captivated by the reflection’s radiating love and sympathy. The fact that she is enamored with the love and sympathy coming from a human source speaks clearly about her moral stature. If Eve is narcissistic, it is only in technical sense. While Eve is seen as the character of vanity, it is important to note that Adam isn’t guiltless in the matter. Adam himself is absorbed in his physical appearance, “Myself I then perused, and limb by limb /Surveyed, and sometimes went, and sometimes ran /With supple joints, as lively vigor led” (8, 267-269). Here, it is interesting to see that Adam is just as vain as Eve when exploring his appearance upon waking up. In addition,
Open Document