Within the scope of this research, we will analyze JOHN Milton’s famous work “Paradise Lost” and illustrate how it is correlated with the so-called Romantic Revolt of the early 17th century. “The romantic revolt against traditional formalities gratified those displeased with the narrow limits of neoclassic literature, painting, and architecture.” () This was the revolt against rationalism and Milton, with his work ‘Paradise Lost’, showed an example to other writers how to speak in poetic prose in order to move hearts and minds of the people.
Milton’s showing inequality between Adam and Eve is one of the most significant aspects of the revolt addresses above. Milton addressing Eve “resembles less/ His image who made both”(8.543-4), believes that Adam is the superior being of the two. Inequality with regard to intellect also exists. Eve realizes that her “beauty is excelled by manly grace/ And wisdom, which alone is truly fair” (4.490-1), suggestive of Adam’s wisdom surpassing not merely hers but her most extraordinary attribute as well, her beauty.
Moreover, Milton notes that Eve leaves Adam and Raphael’s conversation because she cannot endure “thoughts abstruse” (8.40). Spirituality is yet another inequity in Paradise Lost. Eve attaches to God’s law through her husband, who happens to be her law. She is not told about the inhibition by God, but by her husband. Eve does not learn from God’s angel Raphael, but again through her husband. Adam is made “for God only, she for God in him” (4.299).
This chain, argues Timothy Miller, “negates a direct relationship between God and woman” (Miller 18). Finally, the Eve of Paradise Lost assumes a lesser role in the dominion of the earth. It is Adam’s “fair large front and eye sublime” that declares “absolute rule”(4.300-1). He is “pre-eminent by so much odds”(4.447). Eve, “less expressing/ The character of that dominion given/ O’er other creatures,” assumes the traditional role of preparing dinner and tending a flower garden (8.544-6).
These cases of bias portray Eve as the weaker sex. It is in this basis that most readers believe that Eve is culpable for the fall of mankind. However, this writer contradicts this line of reasoning. Man’s fall is caused not by Eve alone but by Adam as well. Eve’s fall is a sequence, a train of events. She decides to walk around, is permitted by Adam to do so, encounters the snake, is deceived and accordingly, transgresses.
Eve’s fall is a result of her bravery. She and Adam are forbidden by God to eat from a particular tree. However, she refuses. Eve as a brave human sets off on a creditable expedition to seek out knowledge, “the prerequisite of true virtue,” wherever it may be found. (Miller 29) Convinced of the “magic virtue of the fruit,” she cannot easily abstain from eating. (Miller 29) That is why she asks for Adam’s permission to leave.
Nonetheless, he deters. And his dissuasions merely strengthen her resolve to have, for this one time, her own way. She pretends to be hurt by his mistrust; she assumes an air of injured dignity (9.279-81). She shows obstinacy, feels her power, and then gets her way.
And with this triumph follow the chains of temptation- the serpent’s flattery, his mixing up of issues, her confusion and finally, her fall. There is nothing wrong with daring to seek for knowledge.
Nevertheless, in Eve’s case, bravery entails pride. St. Augustine assumes that Eve must have sinned by pride as a prelude to the final fall: For the evil act (original sin) had never been done had not an evil will precede it.
And what is the origin of our evil will but pride? For “pride is the beginning of sin” (Miller 60). And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation, when the soul abandons Him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself (City of God, 14:13). Eve commits pride in the sense that she yearns for more knowledge to be exulted. Pride here equals unwise ambition. This pulls Eve down to her fall.
Furthermore, Eve truly is weaker in intellect and is more deceivable than Adam’s. She transgresses because “her deceived mind misinforms her will. The account of her fall, therefore, is rather intellectualistic” (Miller 72). During her encounter with the serpent, Eve is carried away by her feelings. And those feelings rule her too easily.
Hence, her intellect, which is of inferior quality, is blinded. Clarence Green believes that Eve’s fault is intellectual, not moral. He states that it is a human task to “keep our reason in good condition, braced up and alert; it is our duty not to allow it to be caught napping” (). And it is in this basis that Eve has fallen short.
Adam and Eve are predominantly portrayed as two fully developed and perfected people in the whole of Paradise Lost. Adam, especially, is depicted as a flawless type and model, man as he ought always to have been, if he had not fallen away. And in Augustine’s view, Adam’s mental powers “surpassed those of the most brilliant philosopher as much as the speed of a bird surpasses that of a tortoise”. (Miller 78) Moreover, Miller believes that God gifted him with extraordinary intelligence. God irradiated Adam’s mind with the divine light of infused faith, capacitating him to see light with God’s light. His natural human intelligence took a quantum leap when natural truths were suffused with the background light of infused faith. (Miller 79)
Adam, strictly, was never inexperienced; he had all knowledge, or at least the pattern of all knowledge, in his possession from the very beginning. Walter Raleigh once referred to Adam with “ambassadorial dignity” as he goes out to meet the heavenly messenger. He keeps his poise, is not, though modest and deferential, abashed. He goes “not awd/ Yet with submiss approach and reverence meek,/ As to a superior Nature, bowing low” (5.358).
At such moment the effect of nobility and loftiness that Milton perhaps is striving for is apparent. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, Adam is the one who relates God’s law to Eve and not God himself. This goes to show that Adam’s intellect is superior to Eve. God has gifted him more intelligence than her.
Therefore, if Eve’s fault is intellectualistic, what is his? The radical difference between Eve’s fall and Adam’s fall is that hers is a sequence of events. Adam’s is based on one event. This writer believes that man’s fall begins the moment Adam allows Eve to part from him despite his knowledge that evil is afoot. He allows the persistent Eve to depart even though he knows her to be his inferior.
His weakness and lack of firmness in this scene is clearly manifested. Being as I am, why didst not thou the Head Command me absolutely not to go, Going into such danger as thou sadist? Too facil then thou didst not much gainsay, Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss. Hadst thou bin firm and fixt in thy dissent, Neither had I transgress’d, nor thou with mee. (9.1155-61)
Adam transgresses “against his better knowledge, not deceived.” (Miller 91) The account of his fall is voluntaristic. He is not blinded by his feelings, as what happens to Eve. Milton notes “his fall comes because he, clear intelligence, allows Eve, blind passion, to lead” (Miller 93). If the reason is the primary cause for Eve’s downfall, will is the fore for Adam’s demise. Miller thinks, “Adam fell because the irrational principle in his soul, inflamed by a provoking object, triumphed over temperance, not because he disobeyed” (Miller 93).
The provoking object is not the apple, which is the sign of reasonless and random prohibition, but Beauty. Adam should insist on accompanying Eve in order to protect her; instead, he so fears to offend her that he allows her reasoning to supersede his own. Adam is overcome with Eve’s beauty and splendor that he allows himself to become excessively devoted to an inferior. He gets more dedicated to her than to God. This is where he goes wrong.
Even before, he is forewarned against their dismissal by Raphael, who tells him, … she deserts thee not, if though Dismiss not her, when most thou need’st her nigh, By attributing overmuch to things Less excellent, as thou thyself perceiv’st. (8.563-6) This warning is prompted by Adam’s admission that although he knows Eve to be his inferior, he is sometimes overcome by her loveliness that her reason actually seems “wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best” (8.550).
This fondly overcome by Femal charm by Adam is known as uxuriousness. According to Timothy Miller’s point of view, Adam’s inconsistent shifting of motive is from “gregariousness” to “sensuality”; and his conclusion is that Adam’s “final sin” is uxoriousness after all (Miller 101). There are a number of instances in Paradise Lost where his uxoriousness is evident.
One of them is clearly seen in this passage: …Yet when I approach Her loveliness, so absolute she seems And in her self compleat, so well to know Her own, that what she wills to do or say, Seems wisest, vertuousest, discreetest, best; All higher knowledge in her presence falls Degraded, Wisdom in discourse with her Looses discount’nanc’t, and like folly shews; Authority and Reason on her wait, As one intended first, not after made Occasionally; and to consummate all, Greatness of mind and nobleness thir seat Build in her loveliest, and create an awe About her, as a guard Angelic plac’t (8.546-59).
With these lines, Adam’s weakness towards Eve’s beauty becomes clearly marked. These words come from his own lips. This is strong evidence that he is deeply committed to his wife (or wife’s beauty). Moreover, the separation scene provides Milton an opportunity to demonstrate Adam’s setting aside his better judgment out of devotion to Eve. This allows him to affix more of the blame for the Fall on Adam, despite the fact that Eve eats first.
However Milton also needs the separation scene because it would be technically difficult for him “to orchestrate Eve’s deceived transgression and Adam’s undeceived repetition of it as virtually simultaneous events transacted in a shingle space of shared temptation” (Miller 109). This scene enables the readers to see that Adam’s sin is not deception, but uxoriousness.
His uxoriousness can be further seen in this passage that demonstrates Adam’s response to Eve’s disobedience is shown: How can I live without thee, how forgoe Thy sweet Converse and Love so dearly joyn’d To live again in these wilde Woods forlorn? Should God create another Eve, and I Another Rib afford, yet loss of thee Would never from my heart; no, no, I feel The Link of Nature draw me; Flesh of Flesh, Bone of my Bone thou art, and from thy State Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe. (9.908-16)
These words illustrate Adam’s dread of solitariness. Unquestionably, Adam wants company. But he does not want the company of anyone, even the company of another Eve; it is this Eve he wants. The words imply protectiveness, loyalty and undoubtedly excessive devotion. Finally, Adam’s fault through uxoriousness is magnified during the confrontation between the Son and him. Milton drastically modifies the Genesis account of this arraignment.
In Genesis, Adam argues that God is the One who has given him Eve and he blames Him for his own transgression. He refuses to admit it and instead accuses Eve whom God gave to him (Miller 112). In Paradise Lost, nonetheless, Milton alters this response because he rather focuses on Adam’s uxoriousness. In his adaptation, Adam does not charge the Son of giving him Eve, but instead refers to her whom He “mad’st to be my help.”
Adam says he eats the forbidden fruit because Eve seems “so good/ So fit, so acceptable, so divine,/ That from her hand I could suspect no ill” (10.138-40). Adam practically admits his uxoriousness while attempt to defend himself. The Son’s response to Adam centers on uxoriousness as well. From the lines 145- 151 of book ten, the readers are told that Adam’s sin is uxoriousness, straight from His mouth.
The Son’s answer also tells that Adam sins because he is excessively devoted to an inferior, not to an equal. In conclusion, this writer believes that what Milton is trying to arrive at in the Fall is that Adam and Eve both transgress because they both disobey the will of God. The Fall is Disobedience. Adam and Eve both do what they have not been told to do. Eve eats the forbidden fruit, and Adam worships and inferior, not God. That perhaps is already too grave a sin for the whole mankind to be punished for eternity.
Milton’s work “Paradise Lost” can be considered the most crucial work of his time because this particular book paved the way for other writers and illustrated that rationality can be revolted against. Milton was able to show how the conventions can be broken, and his lead was followed by numerous other writers thereafter.
Bibliography Milton, J. Paradise Lost. Ed, by Richardson, D. New York: Harper Collins, 1989. Miller, Timothy C. (Ed.) The Critical Response to John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”. Greenwood Publishing Group. Westport, 1997.
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