Nature of Man versus Women in Paradise Lost

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Paradise Lost by John Milton

Paradise Lost by John Milton abounds as one of the significant poems in English. It also ranks as the best epic poem by the same author. The poem explicates the Puritan Revolution, distinct history, religious and political thought. Essentially, the work explores myriad recurrent themes from the 17th century such as the position of a woman. The topic was explored in relation to the lack of position by women as this abounded as one of the significant topics explored by many scholars of that time. During that period, patriarchy dominated the society, which fuels the action in Paradise Lost. Arguably, the patriarchal society coupled with puritan beliefs influenced significantly the themes in Milton’s poem, which explains his theme of the nature of men over women. Misogyny features considerably in the poem through depiction of Adam and Eve. For instance, misogyny depicts through Eve’s weakness, soft nature, lacking intellectual capacity, imperfect creation and through the relationship she shared with Adam. However, counterarguments abound regarding these assertions. Opponents indicate that the poem does not entirely promote misogyny as will be explicated below. The significance of this theme depicts through its revelation of the poem’s context and plot development. The theme features in many books of the poem.

This essay explores the nature of man versus women in Paradise Lost. Milton depicts his misogynic attitude through Eve’s “sweet” and “soft” features. These can be argued to be depicting Eve’s inferiority to man, which ensures from Adam’s depiction as stalwart that reflect his as superior. This is evidenced in Book IV of the poem whereby Eve appears as meek when she comes face to face with Adam for the first time. From the poem, Milton asserts “…whence true authority in men; though both unequal…sex not equal…contemplation he and valor formed (Milton IV.295-298).” On the other hand, the woman is depicted as “For softness she and sweet attractive grace (Milton IV.295-298). From the above verse, the words “sweetness” and “softness” depict Eve as inferior to Adam while Adam’s superior nature is explained by terms such as heroic and valorous. Still in the same book, in reference to Adam, it is opined that his front, which is large and his eyes that are sublime declare his sublime rule (IV. 300-301). The fact that Adam is described as a more forceful character, this power explicates man’s pre-eminence. Thus, from the passage, it can be asserted that physical strength has been employed as a way of dictating human beings’ status. Notably, Eve’s sensuality makes her to assume a submissive role of resulting from her meekness. Thus, the significance of the above point derives from the fact that Milton explores the tremendous differences existing between Adam and Eve, which add up to the misogynistic value of the poem.

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The misogynistic portrayal of Eve as weak and Adam as strong also explains the nature of men versus women in the poem. This is evident in Book IX whereby Raphael warns Adam regarding Eve’s weakness that could make her vulnerable to Satan’s deception leading to the fall of humanity. From the poem, Raphael can be quoted as telling Adam to warn Eve from listening to Satan as this will result to a terrible reward. In page (VII. 908-910), Raphael utilizes the term “weaker” in reference to Eve. This depicts Eve as weak for no reason and places Adam at a powerful position when they are next to each other. This view of Eve as a weaker person escalates in her through the pressure she receives from her surroundings. For instance, the verse “The willinger I go; nor much expect/ A foe so proud will first the weaker seek” (IX. 382-383, reveals that besides Eve accepting herself as weak, other parties also consider her as the same, which further accentuates Adam’s strength. The significance of this point derives from the fact that Adam’s strength is emphasized through the concentration on Eve’s weakness, which asserts the misogynous nature of Paradise Lost.

Women are also depicted as lacking intellectual capacity in the poem. The author achieves this through his comparison of Eve to Adam. For instance, the author depicts how women are susceptible to lies as evidenced by Eve. Notably, the poem asserts that Eve’s weak nature coupled with lack of intellectual capacity is what made her susceptible to Satan’s lies. Satan’s words in Book IX reveal how Eve was weak and lacked intellectual capabilities as he decides to lure her to eat from the forbidden tree (Gallagher 884). Satan can be quoted saying ““The woman, opportune to all attempts, / her husband, for I view far round, not nigh, / Whose higher intellectual more I shun (IV. 481-483).” It can be argued that Eve’s lack of strength, high intellect and lack of a heroic built is what propelled Satan to consider her as an easy target. Thus, significance of this point is evident from Satan’s consideration of Eve’s intellectual powerless in comparison to Adam’s high intellect (Kean 85).

The nature of men versus women also depicts through Eve’s imperfect creation. This also features under the misogynistic theme of the topic. Notably, Milton blames the fall of man on Adam because he was created as more superior than Eve. From the poem, Milton writes that “Wherein God set thee above her made of thee, /And for thee, whose perfection far excelled/ Hers in all real dignity” (X.149-151). This is a clear indication of God’s plan when creating Eve. It can be argued that he intended Eve to be a servant of Adam and not to rule over him. This depicts in the verse “He for God only, she for God in him” (Milton IV. 299). In (Milton X. 154), Eve is depicted as the “subject” of Adam. Arguably, her imperfect nature absolves her from any blame. It is evident from the poem that Adam is also aware of Eve’s imperfect nature, which explains why he did not blame her for the fall because she was not ignorant by becoming susceptible to Satan’s lies. This is evident in this verse “Whose failing, while her faith to me remains, / I should conceal, and not expose to blame” (X. 129-130). Eve’s frail and imperfect character is given much credence in Book X that contains myriad verses exemplifying her from blame. The significance of the above point is through its depiction of women as imperfect in comparison to men. Additionally, this point explicates women’s inferiority.

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However, a counterargument abounds indicating that depiction of women as weak in the poem is misogynic. For instance, it is asserted that depiction of Eve as a weak character and her surroundings promoted her acceptance of her weakness. This is not entirely true as some scholars argue. For instance, they indicate that gentleness of manners, long-suffering and forbearance abound as god-like qualities (Wollstonecraft). Furthermore, scholars indicate that God’s depiction as a being abundant in mercy and willing to pardon also reveals a weakness, which; however, abounds as an admirable characteristic to human beings. Additionally, it is indicated that when the weakness depicted by women comprises of characteristics of grandeur such as demeanor of dependence, bearing of weakness, which loves as it wants protection and it is forbearing resulting from the silent endurance of injuries is what denotes woman who is accomplished. This is so because it reveals a woman’s submissive nature (Walker). Arguably, women were made to be loved and protected; thus, their depiction as weak does not add up as misogynic. Thus, this counterargument has the significance of showing that the assertion regarding women’s weakness as misogynic is not entirely true.

In conclusion, Paradise Lost is John Milton’s epic work of poem that presents puritan revolution, religion and political thought. The author must have been influenced by the patriarchal society of the 17th century to come up with his literary piece. Notably, the theme of nature of man versus women features in the poem significantly. For instance, Adam is depicted as a stronger person than Eve in the Poem. This is given credence through the reference of Eve as “sweet” and “soft”. Additionally, Raphael also asserts the fact that Eve is weak through his reference to her as “weak”. Women are also depicted as inferior to men in the poem through the depiction of Adam as more intellectual than Eve, which led to Satan choosing to tempt Eve because she was more susceptible to his lies. There is also an argument that Eve felt generally inferior to Adam when they met for the first time. However, a counterargument abounds that refutes the depictions of women in the poem asserts their weakness. According to the scholars, women should be weak coupled with love and patience. This is a godly-like characteristic since the Godly character of forgiveness amazes human beings. Additionally, women should be weak since they were created to be loved and protected. The above responses have different significance in regards to the explication of the thesis statement. However, from the above answers, it can be deducted that the poem confirms a major difference between the nature of men and women as myriad points abound that give credence to women as a weaker, less intellectual gender to men.

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