Eve’s Antinatalism in John Milton’s (1608-1674) Paradise Lost

In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, after the Fall and before the expulsion from paradise, it becomes clear to Eve that all future generations will have to suffer as a result of the first parent’s sin. In the face of future suffering, she suggests to Adam to either refrain from procreation or to commit suicide:

If care of our descent perplex us most,
Which must be born to certain woe, devoured
By death at last, and miserable it is
To be to others cause of misery,
Our own begotten, and of our loins to bring
Into this cursed world a woeful race,
That after wretched life must be at last
Food for so foule a monster, in thy power
It lies, yet ere conception to prevent
The race unblest, to being yet unbegot.
Childless thou art, childless remain: So death
Shall be deceaved his glut, and with us two
Be forced to satisfie his ravenous maw.
But if thou judge it hard and difficult,
Conversing, looking, loving, to abstain
From love’s due rites, nuptial embraces sweet,
And with desire to languish without hope,
Before the present object languishing
With like desire, which would be misery
And torment less then none of what we dread,
Then both our selves and seed at once to free
From what we fear for both, let us make short,
Let us seek death, or, he not found, supply
With our own hands his office on ourselves;

(Tenth Book, 979-1002)

Milton ’s Eve is promoting here either abstention from procreation or suicide to escape from the suffering of existence. In the face of wrongful existence for the future members of the human race, Eve first suggests the antinatalist option, then suicide.

Read more:

Theodicy shading off into Anthropodicy in Milton, Twain and Kant

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