Creating Eve: the Construction of Eve's Gender in Milton's Paradise Lost

Carlisle, Courtney Ogden
In the seventeenth century, Milton wrote Paradise Lost, affecting the way Adam and Eve have been viewed since. While doing so, Milton created a highly complex Eve. Milton constructed Eve's gender through her relationships with Adam, Sin, and herself, and this construction defines Eve and her character. In order to research Eve and her gender construction, I critically read Paradise Lost and other contemporary texts, as well as theories of the body, gender, and religion. Milton's influences, such as the gender debate, classical mythology, and preceding writers all help to construct Eve's gender. Eve is built on a number of binaries and oppositions, such as innocent/guilty, male/female, or beautiful/ugly. These binaries and oppositions allow Eve to become increasingly complex, as well as more human. As these oppositions undermine and reaffirm themselves, they destroy Eve's stereotypical position of a bad woman and instead recast Eve into a more sympathetic, realistic woman. Eve's gender is constructed through her relationships with Adam, Sin, and herself, but it also relies on her paradoxes. By redefining Eve, Milton also affected ideas concerning women and femininity.
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