The major theme of ‘Paradise Lost’ is the development of the relationship between Adam and Eve. Throughout the poem we are asked to draw conclusions on the many different events that we come across as well as the reactions that we see from the two major characters. Indeed, the only real clear-cut thing that we see from Adam and Eve is their unreliability with each other. Milton’s presentation of Adam and Eve in “Paradise Lost” book IX changes as a transition occurs throughout the different stages of the ‘fall of man’.
The prelapsarian innocence and postlapsarian guilt and sin of Adam and Eve are presented and separate characterisations start to emerge. The description that Milton uses to describe the Garden at the start of the poem is very beautiful. In turn, we see the same sort of idyllic scene with Adam and Eve, side by side working together; “With grateful smell, forth came the human pair and joined their vocal worship to the choir”.
Milton’s language here creates a very calm and picturesque portrayal of the garden when in fact; it is merely the calm before the storm for both the garden and the relationship between Adam and Eve. Milton lures us into a false sense of security and then shows us the other side to the pair in the quite heated discussion they have about working alone. This development and change from Adam and Eve actually happens very quickly. Eve wants to have a break from Adam and believes that if they work separately they will get more things done.
In hindsight this was a grave error in Eve’s judgement and pre-empts the fate of the couple during the rest of the poem. Indeed it is the way in which the pair react from these setbacks that shape their development and relationship in book nine and beyond. The Garden of Eden is described by Milton as a place of perfection and paradise. It would certainly not be expected that the characters would drift away from their typical two-dimensional thought processes of that in the story of Genesis in the Bible.
Therefore, as well as the account of Adam and Eve’s relationship being a celebration of love, it is also an observance of the huge complexity of human beings and how they form and develop relations with each other. For example, when first presented with the characters of Adam and Eve in Book IX, Eve is suggesting that the pair should separate in order to achieve more work; “Let us divide our labours”. Although Eve is clearly innocent and loving towards both Adam and God she appears set on her decision against the wishes of her husband.
This behaviour is the first friction that we see in the characters and although it is out of the ordinary and not what the reader would expect, it shows the real development of the Adam and Eve’s relationship into something like what we would think of a couple today. Adam contrasts with her opinions intelligently; “What malicious foe… seeks to work us woe and shame by sly assault… Watches no doubt. ” Adam appears to be much more aware of the danger of Satan and wishes to stay together for he has a true love and devotion towards Eve that she doesn’t really seem to appreciate at this point.
When Eve has her encounter with the serpent later on she thinks that it must be just another of God’s ‘wonderful’ creations. To be fair to Eve, there is really no reason at all why she should think anything else of the snake; she has never experienced the world and is seeing everything from a totally pre-lapsarian point of view. He praises her beauty and purity and Eve succumbs to it rather more quickly than we would expect. The serpent’s cunning and guile manage to win Eve over, even though Adam has warned her before. This shows just how little she has listened to what Adam has said very clearly beforehand.
The change that we see after the encounter is hugely visible in everything that she does and says. Adam is horrified by Eve’s actions; “Defaced, deflowered, and now to death devote? “. Adam immediately realises that Eve has been deceived, showing his superior intelligence. Milton strongly punches Adam’s thoughts out using alliteration creating an ambiguous dull sorrow to his words. He asks it as a question almost as if he feels what has been said is untrue, his awareness and understanding of what death is and the all knowing power of God seems entirely greater than Eve’s even after she has eaten the fruit.
The fact that she goes back to Adam so quickly after eating from the tree gives us some indication as to her motives. She thinks that she will be able to win Adam over, much like the snake persuaded her. This transformation from Eve is clear in her language. “O glorious trial of exceeding love, illustrious evidence, example high”. This is a compliment that you could envisage the serpent saying. However, within the praise that she gives to him are words that are quite troubling and double-edged. ‘Evidence’ and ‘trial’ send a message to me that she is testing his love here.
In this way, it seems to me that Eve has developed into a manipulative and scared woman who has only just started to realise the consequences of her actions. Ironically, before Eve ate the fruit, Adam let her work alone for a few hours and she failed the test that he set before her and broke his trust. Now, Adam will stay with Eve for eternity because of the undying love that he feels for her. I have doubts as to whether Eve would have done the same for Adam if their situations were reversed. Consequently, Adam eats from the tree of knowledge and they are now in the same boat; a situation that Eve feels decidedly more comfortable about.
As well as the tree of knowledge condemning Adam and Eve to a life of mortality, it also develops and complicates the once straightforward thought processes of Adam and Eve. They now know the differences between good and evil and can not only recognise it, but also commit sin themselves; as we see when they both avariciously eat the fruit together “Greedily she engorged without restraint”. Here Milton creates a ugly image of Eve here; losing purity and innocence in enjoying a sensual pleasure. Adam as well has changed and can now feel the difference between loving sexual desire and lust.
Milton suggests that pleasure without restraint is a sinful, prelapsarian bliss whilst postlapsarian life has momentary peaks for sensual immoral pleasure followed by long periods of unhappiness and guilt. We observe from Adam a complete transformation at the end of book nine until the serpent that we have encountered with Eve becomes almost recognisable in his language. For me, the fruit acts as a kind of truth potion. We start to see the genuine and unmasked versions of the two major characters.
The way in which they have acted when together before has been very stereotypical. Now however, we see what they have been yearning to release from within themselves during the start of book nine. Unlike the start of book nine, Adam really gets aggressive with Eve and tells her that what she has done is wrong. Although Adam realises what Eve has done will ultimately lead to her death, his love for her is too strong to break and it is inevitable that he will follow Eve in whatever subsequent action she takes; “yet the loss of thee would never from my heart… lesh of flesh, bone of my bone thou art. ”
Eve was created from one of Adams ribs and he has grown to love her so dearly that he is willing to sacrifice himself for her and he finishes his speech leaving a tone of horror with the reader; “Death is to me as life”. Eve has become increasingly selfish and cunning in her prelapsarian state and has a satanic ability to manipulate; “… not death, but life Augmented, opened eyes, new hopes, new joys, Taste so divine” Eve appears now interested in a sensual world.
Soon after Adam also eats the forbidden fruit and there is an immediate change, both are fully deceived by the sensual pleasure they have gained; “Fairer now than ever, bounty of this virtuous tree” Satan’s plan is complete, the couple are soon very quick to turn upon each other, with new sin and guilt in Eden anger is soon to follow; “high winds worse within began to rise; high passions, anger, hate, mistrust, suspicion, discord and shook sore their inward state of mind, once and full of peace”.
Their relationship, although once uncomplicated, it has now become far more complex. They now know the differences between good and evil. This leads to some problems and arguments but eventually the rewards outweigh the disadvantages of eternal mortality and mental unfulfilment. The development of Adam and Eve’s personalities and relationship both experience considerable change during the poem. We see some of the problems that they encounter immediately after they have eaten from the tree.
They have lustful, sinful sex and an argument breaks out as both start to feel tremendous guilt, much unlike anything they have experienced before eating; “Is this the love, is this the recompense of mine to thee ungrateful Eve. ” A bitterness now exists in Adam that is extremely far from his prelapsarian state. Milton sees Adam’s only crime as one that; “shall befall him who to worth in women over trusting”. Adam however is able to look beyond Eve’s previous lapses and now wants to be with her forever.
This ending to book nine here gives the piece a symmetry and shows us that although the two characters undergo mental change after ‘the fall’, they still love each other even though they can now see each others faults and inadequacies. The development can complicate other aspects of their characters but it is clear they won’t change greatly in their opinions of each other in even the most extreme circumstances.
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