the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Paradise Lost, Book 4

Here we have the introduction of Adam and Eve, who are the perfect couple in perfect love. The thing that struck me the most in this book was the descriptions of Eve. She's compared to Pandora, which is a given, since essentially, the ineptness of woman is the root of all evil in the world, but in lines 450-470, Milton draws a parallel between Narcissus and Eve.

This is probably to demonstrate the newness of the world and the perfect beauty of the first woman, but there is some elements to show how naive and silly Eve is. She's in 'young man love' with herself, since her affections for the reflection is solely based on physical beauty. When she first is led to Adam, she can tell the difference between the watery beauty and the "less fair, Less winning soft, less amiably mild, Than that smooth wat'ry image; (ln 478-480)." But once she is urged by the voice, she falls into "old man love" with Adam, focused on "manly grace And wisdom, which alone is truly fair (ln 491)." So in a way, she was more silly than Adam to start with (which makes it easier for Satan to tempt her), yet she was more able to grow and so it was easier for her to envision more wisdom?

Milton through Eve makes it clear that the hierarchy of authority ought to be God, man and then woman, at least in Eden. So why was Eve able to tempt Adam? If authority flowed from God to man, then he would have had enough wisdom to know the commandment. And Satan might have had an easier time of tempting both of them, if he started with Adam first, and then Adam would have just told Eve to eat some of the fruit...or would that have ruined the 'free will' and the personal choice to eat the fruit? Anyways, I just wanted to say that Eve had "old man love" for Adam, since it was based on his manly grace and wisdom, as opposed to the physical beauty because she was superior in that aspect.


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