Before the fall, Adam is as nearly perfect a human being as can be imagined. He is physically attractive, mentally adept, and spiritually profound. He stands out in Eden as the apex of the hierarchical pyramid. Only Eve can compare to him, and she only in physical beauty.
The conversations between Adam and Eve before Book X are models of civilized discourse. These conversations are difficult to imagine as real, but they reflect the nature of the two humans. Adam's and humanity's values are reflected in his attitude, which is revealed through his speech — to Eve, to Raphael, and to God. In each instance when Adam speaks, he shows the proper relationship to the being with whom he converses. While he is superior to Eve and inferior to Raphael and God, there is still no hint of haughtiness in his discussions with Eve or of subservience in his talks with the angel and God. Always Adam shows the proper respect and relationship in graceful speech and manners.
When Adam sees Raphael's approach to Earth, he tells Eve, "go with speed, / And what thy stores contain, bring forth and pour / Abundance, fit to honor and receive / Our Heav'nly stranger" (V, 313-316). Eve replies, "Adam, earth's hallowed mould, / Of God inspir'd, small store will serve, where store, / All seasons, ripe for use hangs on the stalk" (V, 321-323). These words, which may seem overly formal, nonetheless reveal the relationship of Adam and Eve. Adam is in charge, but his request for Eve to prepare a meal is not a dismissive command. Likewise, her response shows that she knows more about the food situation in Eden than Adam. This brief dialogue is a discussion between near equals who understand their responsibilities to each other and to the world.
Adam's conversation with Raphael is similar and marked by the same tone. Adam welcomes Raphael graciously but in a manner that acknowledges the superior standing of the angel. Further, Adam uses his time with the angel to learn about Heaven, about angels, about the war in Heaven, about creation, and about astronomy. Adam's curiosity and intellect are revealed. Likewise, Adam informs Raphael about Adam's and Eve's creation and about their relationship. Man and Angel have information for each other, and they present this information within the formalized structure that establishes their relationship.
After Adam's fall, his conversations with Eve become querulous. He blames her, and she him. It takes a mea culpa speech by Eve to rekindle Adam's love for his wife and to reestablish their proper relationship. Likewise, when Michael comes to Eden, the relationship between Man and Angel has changed. Michael is stern but compassionate. He presents the vision of the future to Adam, but there is little, if any, give and take between the two. Adam and Raphael have a social meeting in which hierarchy is understood. Michael and Adam have a hierarchical meeting in which Michael talks and Adam listens.
If Adam has a flaw before the fall, it is uxoriousness. This term, which means "dotingly or irrationally fond of or submissive to one's wife," was applied to Adam early on in criticism of Paradise Lost. Adam tells Raphael that Eve's beauty affects him so much "that what she wills to do or say, / Seems wisest, virtuosest, discreetest, best; / All higher knowledge in her presence falls / Degraded" (VIII, 549-552). Even though Raphael warns Adam that this attitude toward Eve is improper and that Satan could use it to tempt the humans, Adam eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge precisely because he cannot bear to be without Eve. As a near perfect human, Adam is ruled by reason. He immediately understands Eve's sin in eating the apple, but he willfully ignores his reason and eats because of his love and desire for her. Adam's uxorious attitude toward Eve, which perverts the hierarchy of Earth and Paradise, leads directly to his fall.
After the fall, Adam is prey to self-doubt, to anger and sullenness, and to self-pity. Ironically, Eve's love for him starts Adam on the path back to righteousness. Adam, after the fall, will never again be the old Adam, but he does recover his reason, he develops a new understanding of and love for Eve, and he sees the good that God will produce from his and Eve's sinful action. Adam goes from being the perfect human to becoming a good human.