Free Representation of the Feminine Characters Essay Sample
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In this chapter, Milton gives an overview of the representation of the main female character, Eve in relation to her male counterpart Adam. At the beginning of the narration the poet briefly identifies the two as being similar and alike. He says that they were two of far nobler shape i.e. Godlike with native honor that was clad in naked majesty (Milton BK IV, Line 287-290). However the narrator soon starts to characterize Eve as a secondary being to man. He says "Whence true authority in men; though both not equal, as their sex not equal seemed (Milton BK IV, L295-300). In fact there is an example of Eve's submission to her "Absolute ruler" (Milton BK IV, L300).
Eve is depicted to be a being with extreme vanity. As she narrates her first moments after creation, she awakes near a lake and sees herself as beautiful after noticing her reflection in the water. This can be interpreted to mean that she has self confidence and thus feels independent from man (Since her reflection is more beautiful than Adam's) (Milton BK IV, L460-466). Milton tries to stimulate this vanity as the root of all evil as it is the main course of fall in book IX. Eve is thus presented as a weak being that can easily be manipulated. This is because she is vulnerable to Satan's tricks and falls right into his traps.
Eve is submissive. She explains her dependence on Adam and says how she was created for him and that she is lost without him. In this way she clearly confirms that she is submissive to Adam. Adam after feeling helpless and lonely asks his creator for a companion (Milton, BK IV 470). Because of this the Eve in Milton's play sees herself as secondary and inferior to Adam. Her duty is to look to him as the Guide. However, though the relationship between them was not of equality, Milton tends to depict that their relationship was still happy and enjoyable. Adam though he possesses absolute authority he reveres Eve like a goddess. He addresses her as "Sole partner and sole part of these joys, / dearer thyself than all" (Milton, BK IV, 411-412). Eve on the other hand refers to him as "thou for him / And from whom I was formed flesh of thy flesh" (Milton BK IV, 440-442). Because of this kind of relationship they are able to liven and praise God in the end. Adam thus plays his role of being a ruler while Eve is the submissive wife.
Eve is presented as one who is unable to reason. She cannot think of herself outside of her man Adam. Her self image is a masculine one which is entirely defined by institutionalized misogyny. This nature that Milton builds plays a role in separating the sexes. It even obscures the views of both the male and feminist worlds. Eve uses this to shape her values. Her consciousness is extremely limited, her idea of self is not self- determined but rather her perception and literary psychology are on the periphery of male dominated ideology. In fact Eve argues that Adam's presence distracts her from her work of tending gardens. To dissuade her Adam tells her, "Yet not so strictly hath our lord imposed / Labor, as debar us when we need". This makes him to even worries that Eve by herself will be more susceptible to the evil influence that he was warned about.
Milton elaborates about the character of Eve by creating a physical description and personality. She is described through Satan's eyes as "Shee has a veil down to the slender waist / Her unadorned golden tresses wore / Dishevell'ed, but in wanton ringlets wav, d" (Milton, BK IV, 304-306). Initially Milton introduces Eve as a woman of admirable physical beauty, but he also hints at her nature and her personality as well. She describes her using words like wanton and Disheveled. He thus creates in Eve a unique perspective of events and allows her to bring forward his own perspective that is different from the biblical Eve. This difference is quite significant in that it tries to portray the inherent divergent views in human beings.
On much deeper analysis of the text one will tend to think that Milton believed that women were actually stronger and more independent in nature. However this ability seems to have been removed from them by other parties, in this case God and Adam. In fact Eve's own creation reveals extreme preference to herself over Adam. It is a voice that deters her from gazing at her image in the water and redirects her attention to Adam. She later tries to return to the image of herself but Adam "with that thy gentle hand / Seiz'd mine, I yielded and from that time see / How beauty is excel'd by manly grace (Milton, BK IV, 487-491).
Milton tends to hint that Eve is not supposed to experience independent reality outside that of Adam. Eve is told that she is both a shadow and an image while being urged to Adam for "soft embraces" or physical contact. She is denied autonomous narcissistic desire because her creation was predicted on another's desire for an equal like himself. In other words she is a shadow of a shadow. She was created to satisfy Adam's need of a companion. The voice tends to tell her that motherhood is the only proper outlet for her desires. She will bear multitudes like herself and "be called / Mother of human race". She only exists for Adam and her off springs. In this Milton suggests that women were created to serve the men and take care of their children.
Despite the many weaknesses Milton has shown of Eve she also has her positive side. She is beautiful, intelligent and spiritually pure. It is clear that though she is not unintelligent her enthusiasm to learn is significantly low and thus just follows what Adam has to say. There is only one instance in which she tries to persuade Adam to eat the fruit from the garden. This however turns out to be very tragic. She is also capable of loving. In summary Milton therefore does not denigrate the role of women but he tries to explore the role of women in his society and the positive role he feels they could offer in the divine union of marriage. He views Adam's submission to God and Eve's submission to Adam as a natural God-Given order. In the poem Adam says "God is thy law, thou mine," and Eve says, "to know no more is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise."