In Paradise Lost, Milton writes the creation story from the perspective of three different characters: Eve, Raphael, and Adam, in that order. Eve’s story tells of her creation and her interest in herself rather than in Adam. Adam’s story tells the creation of animals and then of Eve from his rib. Raphael’s story is more of a warning to Adam to make sure that Eve does not eat from the tree of knowledge. Raphael is sent by God because he is omniscient and knows that Satan’s snake will tempt her. Analyzing from the perspective of the already fallen world, it is difficult for us to see how Raphael is doing much more than simply following God’s orders and warning Adam of Eve’s future actions. However, we must remember that Adam, Raphael, and Eve are in an unfallen space and with his warning, Raphael introduces the idea of hierarchy, plants that seed in Adam’s and Eve’s minds, and unintentionally leads to a split between Adam and Eve.
In telling her story, Eve shares with us her initial thoughts and love for her reflection. In addition, we see her reluctance to visit Adam and that she initially turns away from him because she does not think he is as attractive as her reflection. At this point in time, in the unfallen space, Eve and Adam are on a level playing field. There is no hierarchy, because there is essentially no gender, and Lorber helps us understand that gender is what creates hierarchy, because our world of fallen space is a gender-stratified society (46). There is an inequality between the genders, and we live in a binary world, where women are expected to act and dress one way and men have completely different expectations in order to be accepted in society. Women and men have various roles in the fallen world, but Adam and…
…ke the idea of his authority. If Raphael hadn’t gone about warning Adam in the manner that he did, the fallen space probably would not have given men authority. I think that if Raphael had warned Eve and spoken specifically to her instead of to Adam, we would see a much different societal gender stratification. Milton includes Raphael’s story in between Eve’s story and Adam’s story to split them up, both literally and figuratively, and to explain the hierarchical structure we see in today’s society between men and women.
Lorber, Judith. “‘Night to His Day’: The Social Construction of Gender,” in Feminist Frontiers, Sixth Edition. Eds. Laurel Richardson, Verta Taylor, and Nancy Whittier. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004. 33-51.
Milton, John. From Paradise Lost. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 2005. 122-36; 216-35; 246-60.