College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Paradise Lost, Milton, Eve, Hierarchy, Marriage


Milton's Eve falls into sin when she attempts to upset the hierarchy by and for which she has been created, an attempt which offends on multiple levels. Her choice to disobey God's command violates her position in respect to him, and her desire to attain knowledge - a defining characteristic of masculinity in Milton's universe - encroaches on Adam's position while degrading the defining characteristic of her femininity - her beauty. However, an analysis of the simultaneously contractual and companionate marriage model that appears in Paradise Lost, paired with an appreciation for the historical context for Milton's depiction of the sexes in marriage reveals that Eve's relative subjection under God and Adam and the traits that render her as such are not necessarily to be interpreted negatively. For Milton, the restrictions of one's hierarchical position are a divinely-ordained fact of life; one who fulfills his or her hierarchical duty is praiseworthy, though the ubiquity of this conviction throughout the poem has not always been reflected in critical responses.