What gender stereotypes are embodied in the characters of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a line in Book IX that is in the lofty prose characteristic of the entire poem but the sentiment sounds like a modern stereotype wherein the woman stays at home and the husband goes to work: 

In Woman, then to studie houshold good,

And good works in her Husband to promote. (233-34) 

Both Adam and Eve are working together, but note that she promotes her husband's work and this idea is not overly reciprocated. At the end of this speech, Adam also says Eve is safest with him, implying that while Adam is capable of refraining from Satan's ploys, Eve is not: 

The Wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,

Safest and seemliest by her Husband staies,

Who guards her, or with her the worst endures. (267-69) 

In Book V, Eve relates her troubling dream to Adam. Rather than talking it out together, Adam assumes the role of a psychologist, an authority figure. Although Adam is truly trying to figure things out and put Eve's mind at ease, his therapeutic role in this case puts him in a role of authority. He is described as more reasonable and able to delineate what is logical and what is a combination of seduction and imagination. (On the other hand, Eve will later prove her own reasoning skills by challenging Adam's own abilities. For example, if Adam was so reasonable, how could he let her - a woman who, according to the stereotypical roles, is the less reasonable gender - go off alone?) 


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Paradise Lost

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