Thursday, October 15, 2009

Milton: Treatment of woman in "Paradise Lost"

Adam and Eve are the very first human couple and the parents of the whole human race and the masterpiece of God's art of creation, primarily lived in Eden which is an indescribable beautiful garden in Heaven. God had given them the liberty to enjoy everything available there, with only one restriction that they were not to eat the forbidden fruit there, but they could not act upon this curb, therefore, God punished them for their disobedience and expelled them from Paradise.

 

When we make a careful and critical analysis of "Paradise Lost" Book IX, we discover that in spite of having many common features of character and personality both Adam and Eve have a world of difference between them as well. Both of them are made of clay, have steadfast faith in God and equally love each other yet at the same time they are divided in opinion about their work, passion and the fear of an enemy.

 

As far as Eve is concerned, she possesses female charm and attraction, a suggestive and justifying mind, a rational and convincing manner of conversation, but at the same time she is highly confident, short sighted, jealous and deluded about her powers.

 

Adam, on the other hand, is an embodiment of sagacity, moderation, contentment, foresightedness, knowledge, mankind, passionate love and sacrifice.

 

When Eve rationally suggests that they should work separately because when they are together, they waste most of their time in petty things. Adam foresightedly objects the idea and reminds her of the danger of her being seduced by Satan. At this, she pounces upon him for suspecting her faithfulness. She also under-estimates their enemy. Adam tries his best to convince her that they should not separate from each other but she remains unmoved. At last, he retreats and reluctantly allows her to work after her own heart and, thus, they part from each other for the very first time and this very alienation, in fact, leads to their expulsion from Heaven.

 

Satan, who possesses a great determination and an unyielding power and ever-scheming mind, is, in fact, afraid to face Adam because of his physical strength, intellectual powers, great courage and impressive manlihood. He, therefore, is always in search of an opportunity to find Eve alone, so that, he may succeed in his evil and revengeful designs against God and His master creature. After assuming the shape of a serpent, which is the most cunning of all animals, he managed to enter Eden where he finds his target, that Eve is all alone, busy with her work. He very cleverly starts praising and flattering her that she is "the sole mistress", "the queen of this universe", "the empress" and "the humane goddess". When she, in the state of utter amazement, asks him how he can speak while he is a serpent he relates a fake story of his tasting the forbidden fruit of knowledge and its miraculous effects.

 

When she tells him about the warning of God that tasting the fruit of knowledge could result in death, he washes her brain by saying that this fruit will raise her to the stature of God and that she will not die because he is a living example before her eyes. She is fully entrapped by the oily tongue of Satan, tastes the forbidden fruit due to short sightedness and over confidence. After eating the fruit she thinks if she dies, God will create another Eve for Adam and he will live a long life of everlasting enjoyment with the new Eve. This very thought arises in her an intense feeling of jealousy for the first time and she mounts to Adam to tell him about her blunder.

 

On the other side, Adam restlessly waits for her with garland of beautiful and attractive flowers to welcome her back, but she does not reach at the fixed time. He goes out in search of her and finds her on the way with a bough of apples in her hand. She tells him all about the talking-serpent and her act of tasting the forbidden fruit. Adam leaves a deep sigh of grief and scolds her, but at the same time his passionate love for Eve over powers him and he expresses his uncontrollable sentiments of love in the following famous romantic and emotional words:

The link of nature draw me; flesh of my flash,

Bone of my bone, thou art, and from thy state

Mine never shall be parted; bliss or woe.

Thus Adam also eats the forbidden fruit deliberately just for the sake of his love for Eve for Adam feels himself incomplete without Eve. Thus he prefers a woman to obedience of God.

 

In the end, we can conclude that both Adam and Eve are responsible for their sin of disobedience and their consequent expulsion from Heaven. It is, however, clear that Eve is entrapped by the glib-tongue and the praising words of Satan while Adam falls a prey to his passionate love for Eve.n the Victorian style, but she develops it in a new direction.

 

The Victorians, on the whole, were instructive and they wrote what they wanted to write. Eliot, on the other hand, was an intellectual and she wrote what she should have written. She is known as the first intellectual novelist. Her novels are the embodiment of her ideas.

 

The main charm of the Victorians lies in the individual expression, whereas, in Eliot, our interest is kept up in the way she analyses and diagnoses problems. Eliot rejects dogma and wants to analyze the causes of every problem she comes across.

 

Her scenes are more real than those of the Victorians because her realism is not only documentary but also psychological. To other novelists, realism is an intellectual necessity but in her case, it is a creed and emotion rather ambition which follows avidly. Her picture is more realistic owing to her clear perception of realities. She draws her characters inside out.

 

The Victorians were satisfied with the apparent realities whereas Eliot penetrated deep into the phenomenon and brought to light the hidden causes.

 

The Victorians, too, were satirist but they satirize just to create humour so they were ordinary humorist, whereas, Eliot satirized as a serious thinker. Her humour was of a distinct type i.e. intellectual and psychological humour soaked into deep pathos. She fused together comic irony and mild satire to create humour and her end was to moralize. Her humour had a serious message underlying it. This kind of humour is employed by the modern novelists.

 

Other Victorians did have a moral touch but, in Eliot, we find moral earnestness. Like Fielding, she wrote to inculcate moral in the people. But her concept of morality was quite different from that of Fielding's. She reshapes the consciousness of the individuals in order to remould the whole structure of the society. She believes in the presence of the moral code at the heart of the universe. She made novels the embodiment of her moral ideas. In "The Mil on the Floss", she denounces the dominance of the self recklessness, loose-living etc and emphasizes on the absoluteness of duty, endurance, renunciation etc. her concept of morality is based on human values and the laws of human heart.

 

Her psychological approach also makes her modern. The clear sighted vision of the essential of character gives her a definite edge over the Victorians like Bronte, Dickens, Austen, etc. The grasp on the psychological essentials makes her draw complex characters better than the Victorians, because she draws them inside out.

 

The insight into human nature makes Eliot's picture of human nature more homogeneous than that of Dickens, etc. She shows that saints and sinners are made of the same clay; however, the latter lack the necessary strength of mind. She has ardent sincerity which compensates for many of the feelings of her aesthetic judgment.

 

Eliot is revealer of the self. Characters like Maggie are the self-portraitures of Eliot. She unveils herself through her female characters.

 

Eliot broke away from the fundamental conventions of form and matter. She rejected the standardized formula. She conceived one idea and its logical development.

 

She is modern in inspiration, too. Earlier, novel was meant only for the entertainment of the middle class reading public. Eliot's intellectual approach made novel a 'meeting place of problems'. She studied Man in relation to higher aspects of life. Eliot was the first novelist to discover this particular track on which the modern novelists are treading today.

 

Though Eliot lived in the Victorian era yet she is modern novelist since she wrote in the modern fashion. But she cannot be called 'Victo-modern'. Eliot, in contrast, is exclusively orthodox and Victorian in her ideas and modern in her approach. She can also be differentiated from Hardy in the sense that he is peculiarly Victoria in his style and approach and modern in his ideas. To be curt, Eliot is a modern novelist living amongst the Victorians.

 


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