The Temptation of Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost“Dream not of other worlds,” the angel Raphael warns Adam in Miltons’s Paradise Lost (VIII.175). Eve, however, dreams of another world in which she will gain knowledge and power, a wish that is superficially fulfilled when she succumbs to Satan’s temptation and eats from the Tree of Knowledge. Awakening in the Garden of Eden as though from a dream, Eve searches for her identity and her place in Paradise. Satan provides Eve with a chance to gain knowledge and to become god-like. As Eve is not an equal companion for Adam, she seeks independence from her husband. Shifting her loyalty away from God and Adam and towards Satan and the Tree of Knowledge, Eve strives to find her identity in the Garden of Eden, gain knowledge and godliness, and obtain independence from her unequal partnership with Adam.
In Book IV, Eve recalls awakening to consciousness but she is uncertain of her identity and of her place in the Garden of Eden. Eve’s first thoughts are of “where and what [she] was, whence thither brought, and how” (Paradise Lost, IV.451-52), and it is this curiosity about her identity that leads Eve to disobey God eventually. From the moment of her conception, Eve is already distant from God because she awakens in the shade and not in God’s light. Throughout Paradise Lost, Eve is identified with reflections, shadows, and dreams. Representing the “otherness” of Eden, Eve is an outcast and she seeks to find meaning in her life. At the moment of her awakening, Eve is engrossed by her reflection in the water, which she thinks is another being. This watery, wavering image of Eve extends throughout Milton’s poem, and this further puts Eve in a weak position, for Eve is merely a ref…
…to this seduction because she wishes for an alternate world, a world where she would understand her identity, shed her naivete, and gain independence from Adam. God and Adam try to conquer Eve by imposing rules and ownership upon her, but this does not work. The mother of all mankind falls from her state of grace and innocence when she perceives that she will gain from her seduction by Satan and by disobeying God and Adam.
Works and Sorces Cited
Frye, Roland Mushat. God, Man, and Satan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960.
Langford, Larry L. “Adam and the subversion of paradise.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 34: 1 (1994): 119-135.
Milton, John. ‘Paradise Lost.’ 1674. Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. 2 vols. New York: Norton, 2000, 1: 1817-2044.
Wright, B.A. Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1962.