Reading and Agency: The Development of Eve's Heroism in Paradise Lost

Although many critics have written extensively on the character of Eve in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, her response to the Fall remains under-examined. A close reading of Eve’s birth narrative foregrounds her hermeneutic capabilities, while her initial dream and the Fall demonstrate her striving for hermeneutic independence. Eve’s response to Adam’s suffering after the Fall is examined through Simone Weil’s religious philosophy, particularly her concept of decreation in which the will, as the root of sin, is emptied or undone in order for grace to occupy the space and direct desire toward the infinite good that is God. Eve’s response mirrors the Son’s compassion, selflessness, and redemption and suggests she is the true hero of the poem. Eve’s hermeneutic independence is privileged with a final dream directly from God, which allows her to articulate the effects of grace.