Milton’s Paradise lost, Eve is the heroine. She is most often overlooked as a heroic figure because she is not a central character, and her character does not demonstrate equality in comparison to Adam or Satan. A hero or heroine is someone who demonstrates heroic qualities such as courage, leadership and independence. Heroism requires self sacrifice for the greater good of all humanity and excellent morals. In order to argue Eve as a heroine I will investigate Eve’s heroic qualities, the imperfection of Eden and Satan versus Eve.
Eve shows independence when she suggests to Adam to split up in the garden in order to finish their assigned tasks faster. She states, “let us divide our labors; thou, where choice” (Milton, IX. 214). This is the first time when Eve guides Adam instead of following him. Eve assures Adam she is capable when she convinces him that separating in the garden is a better solution. Eve is intelligent and relies on her ability to reason (Milton, IX. 654). Adam believes that Eve has knowledge of good and evil and trusts her to go alone in the garden. (Milton, IX. 697) Eve is the first person to disobey God, by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. This demonstrates leadership and courage. Eve is aware of the retribution following the rebellion of god’s commands.
After having sinned and feeling remorseful, Eve proposes to take her own life. This act of selflessness shows how heroic in nature she is. God offers Messiah to partake in Adam and Eve’s punishment. God takes their immortality by turning them into humans instead of killing Adam and Eve (Paradise Lost). The two mortals are able to repent for their sins. Eve’s rebellion against God is treated as heroic because the fall is fortunate. Her actions ultimately pave the way for humankind’s redemption and salvation, the deliverance from sin.
The punishment of expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden revolutionized Paradise. They went from being virginal beings, the purest of forms, into fallen sinful humankinds. Milton, who was a Protestant, believed that Jesus sacrificed his life in exchange for others to repent their sin. Many Christians believed that the fall corrupted the entire world, forcing people of future generations to commit original sin. Original sinners would then turn to God because they could not attain an everlasting life.
Eve, the first of humankind to sin, passes the original sin down to all her descendants. This caused the notion that it is in humankind’s nature for future human beings to sin and ask forgiveness of all sins. Augustine, who studied theology, said, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist” (Oulter). Augustine promoted the concept of original sin. He stated that God has good reason for evil to exist, even though he did not create it. Evil cannot exist unless God willed it; therefore he can use it for his glory and for our good (Oulter).
According to Augustine and Milton, the fall was a fortunate fall because the Garden of Eden is not perfect. The fall is ultimately good sprouting from an evil action. Without the fall from Eve and Adam, humankind would not have freedom of will or be able to make mistakes. Eve is the heroine because she is the first human being in the Garden of Eden to disobey God, creating change in Paradise Lost and in the end creates Felix culpa, which is a Latin word for “fortunate fall”. Eve and Satan have a lot of similar characteristics for example, they are both leaders, demonstrate braveness, disobey God, and envy others with higher power and authority. However, Eve’s rebellion differs from Satan’s primarily because Eve and Adam show remorse and shame after they have sinned.
They seek God’s forgiveness by deciding to ask forgiveness for their sins, instead of taking Satan’s path of constant rebel without repentance. They understand that God will eventually forgive them over time and their sins can be corrected through generations of hard labour on Earth. This is a true sacrificial gesture and can be seen as very heroic in nature. Eve is also selfless when she abstains from procreation. She is worried that her sinful nature will be passed on to her future children and they will be judged. Eve admits that it will be hard yet adds that Adam and she have the power to control their own destiny.
Satan in contrast to Eve is very selfish. He is so envious of God’s power that he tries to overcome heaven. Satan thrives for the power and glory of his almighty. He disobeys God once again by going to the Garden of Eden and convinces Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. Satan receives his punishment and does not regret any of his actions. Satan does not believe in God’s creations and denies his priority by stating that the angels were self-raised (Milton,V. 860). Satan speaks his mind when he says that nobody remembers their birth. This is a huge difference compared to Eve’s belief in God.
Satan has a lot of power yet he continues to seek more. In comparison, Eve searches for equality. Milton’s demonstration of Eve wanting to be equal when Eve considers not telling Adam what she has done, “In Femal Sex, the more to draw his love, and render me more equal, and perhaps, a thing not undesireable, sometime superior for inferior who is free?” (Milton, IX. 822- 825). She thrives for equality with Adam so she can be taken seriously while engaging in intellectual conversations with Raphael.
Eve demonstrates all the qualities a hero would possess such as: courage, bravery, independence, leadership and intellectual ability. She changed Paradise forever. Without the fall, Eden’s imperfection would have remained and the world would be different today. Satan though powerful, did not show remorse or regret for his sins and for this reason he is not a hero. Because of Eve’s actions and decisions she is the ultimate heroine of Paradise Lost.
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“Paradise Lost – A Brief Overview & Summaries.” Paradise Lost Study Guide. New Arts Library.
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