Subservience


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Subservience Essay, Research Paper

Jacob Kaplan-MossSubservience The relationship between men and women is one that has always been filled with conflict. This is mostly because many men view women as their inferiors, their servants. The belief that Women was created as a servant of Man is biblical in origin. In Genesis, G-d, having seen that for Adam no fitting helper was found (Gen. 2.20), creates one… called Woman, for from Man she was taken. (Gen. 2.23). In Hebrew, this particular sentence takes on additional meaning. The Hebrew word for woman, ishshah, is in fact derived from the word for man, ish. This biblical play on words is only the beginning of what swiftly becomes a (rather complex) theme in Genesis: Eve s submission to Adam. That simple phrase does not, however, explain the theme adequately. Biblical scholars speak often of the interesting paradox that occurs within the book of Genesis. Although Eve was created to serve Adam, she seems to, in fact, have almost complete power over him were it not for Eve s insistence, Adam would not have eaten the apple. This leaves us with a very intriguing question. If Eve indeed created to be subservient to Adam, why does he exhibit subservient attitudes towards her, as well? In John Milton s epic poem Paradise Lost, Milton too raises this issue. Indeed, because Paradise Lost is in fact a retelling of portions of the Old and New Testaments, Milton s choice of words and references are mostly biblical in origin. This is not accidental; Milton set out on a monumental task, and quite often used the Bible to help him. Milton s diction, references, and metaphors in his description of Adam and Eve and of their relationship is chosen specifically to refer back to Genesis. In Milton s description of Adam in Book IV, Milton emphasizes certain points about Adam and Eve. These points are the very same ones raised and stressed by Genesis. Adam was, according to Milton, created for contemplation… and valor (Milton, IV, 298). The qualities of Adam that Milton chooses to describe are not simply chosen at random, however. In Genesis, G-d creates man in His image (Gen 1.27) to contemplate, as in looking in a mirror. Similarly, G-d tells Adam to fill the earth and master it (Gen 1.28) a task which most certainly will require valor. Milton s description of Adam s Hyacinthine Locks… manly hung… beneath his shoulders broad (Milton, IV, 301-303) emphasizes that Adam was indeed created in G-d s image; that of a truly awesome deity. Milton s diction in his first description of Adam relates directly back to the creation myth presented in Genesis. Similarly, Milton s early description of Eve relates to Genesis in a kindred fashion. Milton tells us that Adam was created for G-d only, while Eve was created for G-d in him [Adam] (Milton, IV, 299). Milton s explanation of G-d s reasons for creating Adam and Eve is simply a summery of what is contained in Genesis. After the work of creation was almost finished, on the sixth day, G-d say how good everything He had made was, and G-d said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Gen 1.25-6). G-d, after seeing his work, wanted someone to see what he had done and so he created man. When G-d saw that there was no fitting helper (Gen 2.20) for Adam, G-d created Eve. Eve was created as the fitting helper that Adam so desperately required. Milton takes the typically understated biblical writing, and uses well chosen words of his own to emphasize Eve s servitude to Adam. Milton refers to Eve s wanton ringlets… which [imply] subjection (Milton, IV, 307-308), and repeats yielded in lines 309 and 310. Milton diction and repetition in this passage emphasize Eve s servitude. Milton s language describing Eve as subservient is chosen to closely coincide with Genesis.

Milton continues his syntactic references to the Bible as he describes the complex relationship that Adam and Eve have. Before the fall, Adam and Eve are the perfect couple clearly in love. As they stroll thorugh the Garden, Milton uses the word love many times, emphasizeing the bond between Adam and Eve. In the description of Adam and Eve in and around lines 320-355 (Book IV), the relationship between Adam and Eve can be seen as one of equals. Genesis too contains sections that portray Adam and Eve as equals. When G-d created man and women, he made them male and female at the same time. The creation of Adam and Eve is actually told twice in Genesis once in 1.26 – 1.31 and again in 2.18 – 2.24, and this duplicity contributes to the paradox surrounding Adam and Eve. Depending on where one reads in both Paradise Lost and Genesis one can get two very different fealings about the relationship between Adam and Eve. Reading the second story of Eve s creation (Gen 2.18 – 2.24), one gets the story of Eve created from Adam s rib, and thus as his servant. Similarly, reading Milton s inital descriptions of Adam and Eve, one comes away with that very same idea of Eve as the subservient wife. However, reading more deeply into eaither work, one finds a very interesting paradox. Although on the surface Eve was created to serve Adam, they are in fact far more equal than one would think at first glance. If Adam is truely in control of Eve, why does he eat the apple at her insistance? Indeed, asks Hart, if Adam is truly the dominant one, why does he instantly blame his eating of the apple on Eve. Hart sugests that G-d in fact views Adam and Eve as equals because he appears to accept Adams blame of Eve. If Eve was in fact created to serve, Adam would have no grounds place blame on her. This bluring of who is in control is a central issue in both Genesis and Paradise Lost. Milton s task in Paradis Lost, to justify the ways of G-d to man (Milton, I, 26), is a herculean one at best. To retell what is the greatest story ever told the creation myth is a task few would readily take on. People s religious beliefs are often thier most deer, and to write an epic such as Paradise Lost required Milton to ensure that his story did not conflict with the real one.

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