In John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, how does Eve respond to Adam's judgment of her after they have sinned?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Paradise Lost, Eve, having sinned and having also encouraged Adam to sin, responds in different ways to Adam’s criticism of her in two different sections of the poem.

Shortly after Adam has joined Eve in sinning, and shortly after they have had sex together without sharing true love, Adam upbraids Eve for having failed to heed his earlier advice, when he had strongly and repeatedly urged her to stay with him and not go off to work on her own, thereby running the risk of being deceived by Satan (9.1134-42).

In response, Eve is immediately self-defensive. She refuses to accept responsibility for her actions, and indeed she even blames Adam for failing to insist strongly enough that she should not go: “Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent, / Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me” (9.1160-61). These words are all the more ironic since Adam had steadfastly and consistently urged her not to go, although he was finally unwilling to command her to stay.  Initially, then, Eve’s pride causes her to resist accepting personal responsibility for her sin. She tries to blame her sin on Adam.

Later, however, after Adam once more rebukes her, Eve responds in an entirely different and altogether commendable way. In Book 10, after Adam calls Eve a serpent and orders her out of his sight (10.867), she now responds with genuine love, true humility, and a mature willingness to accept full responsibility for her own sin and even for Adam’s sin (10.914-37). She is even willing to bear Adam’s punishment for him, offering to suffer death so that he might live and be freed from blame. By showing her willingness to act in such a selfless, Christ-like, and literally self-sacrificing way, Eve exemplifies Christian virtues long before Christ ever comes to earth.

For an excellent brief overview of the poem, please see C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).