Wisdom vs. Vanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Wisdom vs. Vanity in John Milton's Paradise Lost

In the seventeeth century, women were not permitted to embrace in the power of knowledge. John Milton portrays the only female character in his epic poem, Paradise Lost, as a subservient creature caught in a seemingly misogynistic society. Milton states Eve's location in the great chain of authority of his time quite clearly with her inferiority to man repeated frequently throughout the epic, especially amplified in Book IV and Book IX. Milton uses the character of Eve to represent the ills that can befall mankind after she (the woman) breaks the chain of authority in which she was placed. A twenty-first century reader might perceive Milton's theodicy on a woman's place in society
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Knowing this from the absolute beginning of the narrative, it is clear that the woman unreasonably steps out of her position in Eden and is overcome by evil. In Book IV of Paradise Lost, Milton expresses Eve's perception of herself when she sees her image as well as the reader's insight to Eve's role through Satan's initial description of her. At the beginning of this narration Adam and Eve are identified, very briefly, as alike, "Two of far nobler shape erect and tall, Godlike erect, with native honour clad in naked majesty seemed lords of all"(PL: BK IV, L287-290). This narration then immediately turns to a characterization of Eve as the secondary being, "Whence true authority in men; though both not equal, as their sex not equal seemed…He for God only, she for God in him" (PL: BK IV, L295-300). Here, then, is a grand example of Eve's submission to her "absolute ruler" (PL: BK IV, L300) who is man and her place in the natural order of creation is beneath him. Milton immodestly states in these lines that the male authority figure in this story is the most divine of all created beings and the female is only there to enhance his being. They are both made in the likeness of God, but Eve is divine-like only through Adam. Milton, in Paradise Lost, as in all epic structures, uses many classical allusions to help the reader gain insight to a woman's standpoint through the power of poetry. To enforce Eve's position and to introduce Eve's flaw, Milton

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