John Milton’s portrayal of Eve in Paradise Lost starts off less than complimentary. Created solely to be Adam’s companion and mate, Milton portrays her as inferior to Adam in almost every way, except for her beauty.
Soon after she is created, Eve wanders in a daze and falls asleep again to rest. Awakening in darkness (unlike Adam, who first awakened in sunlight) she soon falls in love with her own image when she sees her reflection in a pool.
“As I bent over to look, opposite me,” she says (in the plain English translation) when retelling her earliest memories to Adam:
Another shape appeared in the water, bending to look over me;I jumped back, and it did too, but pleased by it I soon came back and was pleased that it came back and returned my looks of sympathy and love: I would still be looking now, pining with vain desire, if a voice had not warned me, ‘What you see there, you fair creature, is yourself, it comes and goes as you do…'”
That was God’s voice, before he officially introduced her to Adam.
It’s hard to blame Eve, really. I mean, imagine you woke up one day; the first of your kind. You’d clearly be a little bit confused. Now imagine, having not seen anyone else around like you, the first thing you find is a mirror. You’d be just a little bit curious, no?
It’s clear that Milton, a diligent student of Greek epic poetry, borrows none too sparingly from the story of Narcissus, as told by Ovid’s in Metamorphoses. By reflecting Eve as a narcissist, Milton sets up her greatest asset as her most damning weakness: vanity.
Later, when Satan sneaks into Eden, he compliments Eve on her beauty and godliness, easily persuading her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, catalysing humankind’s fall. Milton echoes Genesis, characterising Eve and her entire legacy as the weaker sex; lacking in the reason required to resist temptation, side-step original sin and stay in Paradise.
We won’t be including Eve’s reflective pool scene in our rendition of Paradise Lost in Second Life, but you’ll be able to see her getting up to all sorts of other mischief in the play, especially with that little fruit mishap.