In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost , the issue of who is to blame for thefall of man is one that for the most part can be interpreted from a closereading of book IX. Based on the text, Eve played a larger role in the decisionto eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Adam’s role wasmore passive in that he simply followed the wishes of Eve. When everything issorted out later in the story, it becomes clear that Adam and Eve were equallyat fault for their actions. After an extended visit from the angel Raphael atwhich time he explained in great detail to Adam the dangers of falling intotemptation and disobeying God’s will, Adam is faced with a problem.
The problemis that Eve wants to split up for the day and Adam knows that this is a badidea, particularly after the dream that she has described to him. They argue atgreat length, but in the end Adam allows Eve to do as she wishes even though heknows she is making a very bad decision. Adam also knows that his ability toreason is inherently stronger than Eve’s, yet in his love for her is so strongthat consents to her will. This yielding is very similar to Eves yielding tothe serpents deception because Adam is aware of the probable outcome of thisdecision. In his final plea for her to remain pious he says to Eve: O woman,best are all things as well Of God ordained them; his creating hand Nothingimperfect of deficient left Of all he had created, much less man, Or aught thatmight his happy state secure, Secure with outward force. Within himself Thedanger lies, yet lies within his power; Against his will he can receive no harm.
But God left free the will, for what obeys Reason is free, and reason he maderight, But bid her well, and still erect, Lest by some by fair appearing goodsurprised, She dictate false and misinform the will To what God expressly hathforbid. Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins That I should mind thee oft,and mind thou me. Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve, Since reason notimpossibly may meet some specious object by the foe suborned, And fall intodeception unaware, Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warned.
Seek notTemptation, then which not to avoid Were better, and most likely if from me Thousever not: trial will come unsought. Wouldest thou approve thou constancy,approve First thy obedience, th’other who can know, Not seeing thee attempted,who attest? But if thou think trial unsought may find Us both securer than thuswarned thou seemst, Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more. Go in thynative innocence; rely On what thou hast of virtue, summon all; For God towardsthee hath done his part: do thine.
(9,343-379) In this long speach Adam ispleading with Eve to see that is is a terrible idea for her to venture out intothe garden alone in the mist of such impending danger. It is as though he isgiving her a speach before he sends her out to battle. Battle is precisely whatshe walks into, and Adam is clearly aware that this is going to happen. It ishis decision to yield to Eve that makes him as much to blame for the fall as Eveis for trusting the serpent and falling into temptation. After Eve has beencorrupted she is faced with a decision of what to do about Adam. She decides toconvince him to eat the apple as well so that they will share what everpunishment that they will have coming to them. Adam knows that eating the appleis very wrong, but he does so anyway because his love for Eve is so strong willnot let her suffer punishment alone.
This being his decision, he eats the appleand thus disobeys the word of God and contradicts every thing he has beentelling Eve that they must believe in. After the deed is done, they fall into aterrible argument of who is to blame, but the reality is that the two of the areequally at fault for the fall of man, because either could have prevented it ifthey had obeyed the will of God.