For centuries, John Milton’s portrayal of Eve in Paradise Lost has been labeled as misogynistic in that Eve acts as a narcissistic simpleton who is shackled to Adam by divine right. Feminists also assume that since Eve was created last, she is automatically put into the role of the submissive. However, it must be acknowledged that Eve knows that she is the fairer sex and is the first one to question divine authority. She is the one who wants to divide the work so that it may be done faster and so Adam and Eve may be equal in tending the garden. It is because of her desire to be equal to Adam that she is the first one to eat of the fruit and therefore the first to fall.
Throughout Paradise Lost, Milton emphasizes the idea of free will and
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Adam is struck powerless by her beauty and he tells Raphael of the power of Eve’s beauty (Schoenfeldt 326). He even describes her as “Heaven’s last best gift” and the “fairest of Creation, last and best/Of all God’s works” (Miller 33 and Milton 9.896-97). Throughout the poem, it appears that Eve is conscious of her worth and before she is told otherwise she knows that she is the fairest of the couple (Milton 8.502). The latter can be questioned because it appears that even though she is told Adam is the fairer through his masculine grace, Eve still knows the power of her beauty over the man who has authority over her.
Adam tells Raphael that he believes that Eve is too beautiful to be subordinate to him; to this Raphael warns him to be wary of her and to not let her looks have control over him (Milton 8.546-554). Ultimately, Adam is overcome by Eve’s charms and beauty and his obsession for her overcomes his rational judgment (Musacchio 140). It is not until after the fall, that he realizes how he was clouded by her beauty and is angered by the fact that he did not have to power to stand against such feminine charms (Milton 9.999). While Adam at first praises Eve’s beauty, after the fall he declares that that once praised beauty is a dangerous weapon that ensnares men (Miller 38). He also believes that a woman’s beauty hides their true nature, which is as crooked as the rib from whence they came (Miller 38). Eve is the first of the couple to question the