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E211 Fall 2010 Students' Blog

Jennifer Sommer on Milton's Paradise Lost, Book 4

Published by admin_main on Fri 29 Oct, 2010

21. Examine the narrator's "portraits" of Adam and Eve (lines 288-324).

a) How is each figure described? How is the language that describes Eve different from the language that describes Adam? To answer this question, you really must read the descriptions out loud to yourself.

Milton provides vivid descriptions of both Adam and Eve however his portrayal of the two is very different. Milton doesn't spend too much time describing Adam and gets right to the point. The description of Adam can be found in lines 300 to 303.

His fair large front and eye sublime declared {300}<br> Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks <br> Round from his parted forelock manly hung<br>

Clust'ring, but not beneath his shoulder broad:

According to the imagery given by the narrator, Adam is illustrated as a man wielding much command and authority. Milton leads us to view Adam as a strong leader by use of the words "declared absolute rule" This portrayal of Adam by Milton has given way to the common stereotype of strong rulers today. His characteristics enhance his masculinity in that his features are broad and strong, which, in turn, is power in life.

The description of Eve is a little bit longer and can be found from line 304 to line 311

She as a veil down to the slender waist<br> Her unadorned golden tresses wore<br> Disheveled, but in wanton ringlets waved<br> As the vine curls her tendrils which implied <br> Subjection, but required with gently sway,<br> And by her yielded, by him best received, <br> Yielded with coy submission, modest pride, {310} <br>

And sweet reluctant amorous delay.

The narrator portrays Eve a little differently than he does Adam. Milton describes Eve's hair in detail commenting on her golden tresses in which he also refers to as wanton ringlets and tendrils. Opposite of Adam's hair which stopped short of his shoulders, Eve's long hair hung like a veil to her waist. The narrator uses very descriptive words when talking about Eve's hair such as "unadorned" and "disheveled". It seems like Milton is suggesting that Eve has a natural beauty. He is suggesting that Eve really doesn't need adorning and that she and her hair are lovely without any help. Milton's description of Eve's hair can be transcended on to her personality. It can be said that Eve has an innocently mischievous and playful side with a seductive quality about her. Like her hair, Eve doesn't need to be perfect in order to have an effect on others.

The language that describes Adam and Eve is very different. When Milton describes Adam he uses words to define Adam however the words written about Eve simply suggest who she is. This is shown in the first line describing Adam where it says "His fair large front and eye sublime declared absolute rule" and contrasted with lines 307 and 308 describing Eve where it says "as the vine curls her tendrils which implied subjection". It is interesting that Milton chose to declare Adam's absolute rule yet imply Eve's subjection. The description also shows that Milton used few lines to outright describe Adam but did not do the same for Eve. When it comes to Eve's description Milton used many ways to imply that Eve's hair was messy but suggested that she had a natural beauty. The author provided redundant suggestions for Eve's hair and personality but simply stated Adam's appearance which implied his characteristics.

b) What is the proper relationship of Adam and Eve to each other? To God?

The relationship between Adam and Eve consists of reciprocity. God created Adam and Eve, in his image, for each other. Adam showed personal bravery while Eve offered "softness and sweet attractive grace" (line 298). According to the author, Adam is for God and Eve is for Adam. Milton says in line 299 "He for God only, she for God in him". This line is supported by 1 Corinthians 11:3 where it says "The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man." I think Milton agrees with the bible that the proper relationship between Adam and Eve is that Adam has authority over Eve. Adam and Eve have different relationships with God. Throughout the passage Adam is portrayed as more strict and a closer follower to the word of God in comparison to Eve. While Adam offers a strong, direct relationship with God that is admirable, he also shares a strong love for Eve. Eve has a natural beauty and implicit effect on Adam. Her relationship to God is more passive. While she is subservient to Adam, she is not easily controlled and still reserved. Eve may have "implied subjection" towards Adam but it is portrayed throughout the passage that she shares in his strong love. We can see in lines 321 and 322, that Adam and Eve love each other where it says "So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair that ever since in love's embraces met". Though Adam and Eve have different relationships with God and have different qualities to bring to their relationship, there is a mutual exchange between the couple that allows them to be in harmony with God and each other.

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