[Milton-L] Struggling with a paper

Jennifer Page / Joe Mayer jenniferjoe at sprynet.com
Fri Feb 4 16:55:52 EST 2005

Dear Sarah:

I think that you're making life difficult for yourself by attributing 
to Eve "an affinity for knowledge" and "an interest in learning and 
reason."  Such intellectual inclinations on the part of Eve seem to me 
questionable, and by positing them you make it harder to find 
connections between her and Satan.

True, Satan tempts Eve by talking up the forbidden fruit's 
Wisdom-giving properties.  But he is not talking about knowledge for 
knowledge's sake.  Once her and Adam's eyes are opened, he says, they 
"shall be as Gods."  He appeals not so much to a love of knowledge, but 
to her sense of not being duly  appreciated, of being consigned to an 
inferior status.  (Here is an obvious link between her and Satan.).The 
knowledge that she'll gain will remedy her impairment.

A similar argument can be made about her question in Book 4: "But 
wherefore all night long shine these, for whom / This glorious sight, 
when sleep hath shut all eyes?" (4.657-58).  At first sight, this 
question might seem to indicate simply intellectual curiosity.  But in 
light of her Satan-inspired dream (Book 5) and Satan's successful pitch 
in Book 9, this question can be seen as expressing dismay that the 
glorious sight of the stars goes unappreciated, since sleep has shut 
all eyes to their beauty.  Such, she feels, is her own plight.  In her 
dream, the angel calls her "Nature's desire" at whom all things gaze 
raptly, attracted by her beauty (5.45-47). Unappreciated beauty is now 

This is not to say that Eve is by any means unintelligent or unable to 
reason, but rather that with her intellectual abilities she strives for 
something other than truth.

In hope that this helps you get that sucker written.

Joe Mayer

More information about the Milton-L mailing list