ENGL 145 - PL essay final draft

ENGL 145 - PL essay final draft - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson Professor Dreher ENGL 145 15 November 2007 Eve’s Masculinity in Paradise Lost In Milton’s Paradise Lost , there exists a gender binary that when examined, ironically counters itself. Milton maintains that Adam, God’s first human creation, is the powerful patriarch of all Earthly creatures; “His fair large Front and Eye sublime declar’d / Absolute rule” (4.300-1). Yet despite Milton’s masculine portrayal and description of Adam, in his interactions with Eve, Adam is indeed the more submissive of the two, even if Eve is constantly referred to as a typically female and submissive character. There is therefore a disparity between Milton’s description of Adam and Eve and their interactions which show their true character nature. Eve’s character is more complex than her simple origin would mislead one to believe. Despite her implied innocence, it becomes evident through her actions and words that she is highly intelligent. However, Eve’s intelligence is of a different nature than Adam’s; while Adam has informational knowledge (about the stars, the creatures of Eden, Man’s relationship to the Divine), Eve’s intelligence is born chiefly from her corporeal experience, her curiosity, her ability to reason equally with Adam, and her strong sense of agency and independence. In other words, her intelligence is ironically more masculine (as it demands action and assertiveness), while Adam’s is more reactive and passive, which indicates his more feminine nature. When Adam recounts his earliest pre-Eve memories to Raphael in Book VIII, he reveals his attitude towards solitude. After having asserted his dominion by naming all of the creatures in Eden, Adam realized that he was miserably alone; “but in these / I found
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Carlson 2 not what methought I wanted still” (8.354-5). He desperately called out to God, “In solitude / What happiness, who can enjoy alone / Or all enjoying, what contentment find?” (8.364-6). In conversing with God, Adam finds that he experiences solitude differently than God, and God rewards Adam for this realization by creating Eve. Consequently, “Adam understands that Eve’s purpose in life is to allay his involuntary solitude. Her existence, in his mind, marks the end of his experience of negative solitude; she is the solution to his problem of loneliness” (Long). However, it is also from this solution that Adam becomes involuntarily feminized. Although God technically takes one of Adam’s ribs to create Eve, if we think in literal terms, Adam literally gives birth to Eve. By way of this feminine experience, “the first man paradoxically becomes female only when the female is taken out of him, a moment that seemingly ought to establish securely the male/female binaries” (Stone). From the moment of Eve’s birth, there is a subconscious reversal of gender roles, for Eve
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ENGL 145 - PL essay final draft - Carlson 1 Mallory Carlson...

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