LITERATURE AND THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION
Week Seven – Focus: John Milton, “Paradise Lost”.
The seminar paper should focus particularly on Milton’s presentation of Adam and Eve (with particular attention to Eve, if you prefer) and on the way the Fall is depicted.
By Evan Papamichael
A discussion will be made of Adam and Eve relating mainly to Books VIII and IX. I will follow through with a brief mention of Book V. An attempt will be made to depict the importance of these sections both to the Epic as a whole and the intelligent and tactful manner in which Milton presents the literature to substantiate such a point.
According to C.A. Patrides (1967:74) in Book VIII Milton refers to Adam’s senses and expresses how they show Adam’s pleasure. The poem continues with Eve’s ability to enlighten Adam through her power over him. Adam mentions that he discovers pleasure through taste, sight, smell, but this is not juxtaposed to the “commotion strange” the companionship of Eve has the ability to awaken. Adam’s speech is so varied as he describes verbally Eve’s position and function.[i]
In Book VIII, 540 Milton states:
For well I understand in the prime end Of Nature her th’ inferiour, in the mind. And inward Faculties, which most excel.[ii]
Furthermore, Adam’s tribute is so intense states C.A. Patrides (1967:75) and so touching that one distances it from the tone which it commenced with, the tone which is:[iii]
Book VIII, 532.
in all enjoyments else
Superiour and unmov’d, here only weake
Against the charm of Beauties powerful glance.[iv]
“Beauties powerful glance”: the phrase is strangely different from the last lines of the passage where Adam expresses to us his true emotions, as he states:[v]
Book VIII, 546:
when I approach
Her loveliness, so absolute she seems...
…Build in her loveliest, and create an awe
About her, as a guard Angelic plac’t.[vi]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 75-76) also points to the first section of Adam’s testimony where he highlights nature’s one “weakness” – it is shown here likewise. But Milton provides thereafter the angel Raphael with an important position in the poem. Raphael it should be noted speaks on behalf of Milton. They both feel that they have some superior principles to express. Raphael expresses a dishonest and unhappy speech.[vii]
Book VIII, 561.
...Accuse not Nature, she hath don
The more she will acknowledge thee
And to realities yield all her shows…[viii]
Raphael’s method, tries to avoid everything, where Adam talks wherever it is convenient for the former. Whilst doing this, Raphael preys on the remainder of Adam’s speech and provides an answer to it.[ix]
In Book VIII, 567.
For what admir’st thou, what
transports thee so,
According to C.A. Patrides (1967:76) Adam’s effort here is meaningless. The entirety of his significant speech has been ignored. This brings us to the climax of Adam and Eve’s Epic. Eve dashes towards Adam excitedly and in a sense of panic and explains to him what she has done.[xi] We are at this point, shifting our attention to Book IX. The greatness of what now occurs should be depicted at this point. Adam stands shocked, “amaz’d” and “blank” at Book IX, 889,[xii]
and likewise at Book IX, 890.
Adam shows the feeling of:
while horror chill
Ran through his veins, and all his joints
And then Adam experienced:
In Book IX, 895:
…First to himself he inward silence broke.[xiv]
C.A. Patrides (1967:77) feels that prior to talking to Eve, Adam communes with himself and at the same time he realises two points: Initially he is disillusioned, secondly Eve joins him and they both are lost. For Adam realises here that this is the normal outcome of events.[xv]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 78) points out that Eve up to this point has not been the major
At Book IX, 907
And mee with thee hath ruind,
for with thee
Certain my resolution is to Die.[xvi]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 78) points out that Eve up to this point has not been the major form of persuasion to Adam. But the Final nine lines to this speech (that of self-communion) and the eight next final lines (Adam’s initial speech to Eve after the alarming news) represents the two most significant sections in Paradise Lost.[xvii]
The first section goes:
Book IX, 908:
...How can I live without thee, how forgoe
...Bone of my Bone thou art, and from
Mine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.[xviii]
C.A. Patrides (1967:78) highlights the difficulty in interpreting this, especially in terms of the feeling. Adam expresses loneliness. But there must be a sense of love present, which is shown. This is echoed further along in the Epic. Here we find Adam’s “rationalising” words. That being where a bit of “recomforted from sad dismay”. Book IX 917
Adam tries to convince himself that things are optimistic on his behalf. He is not convinced by his words even when making remarks. Then by eliminating the “perhapses” there emerges the important word “however”, and the diversion to the second complete declaration of purpose.[xix]
In Book IX, 952,
However I with thee have fixt my Lot
…One Flesh; to loose thee were to loose my self.[xx]
According to C.A. Patrides (1967:79-80) these two passages are significant. They show what Adam feels as he makes the fateful decision. Worth noting here, is “comradeship”, and that Adam was in need of company, which is why he wanted to live the entirety of his life with Eve. But Adam’s feelings were more intense than this, for “this” Eve was the only one he wanted, meaning he desired no other. Adam was loyal in his love for Eve even though, there were some strains present such as protectiveness and being sincere in loving one’s spouse to the fullest. But their love up until now was fortunately comparable to a prolonged honeymoon. Also worth noting is that up to this point Eve has exerted little influence in persuading Adam; Simply because it was not necessary. But from the other side of the same coin Eve cunningly cries and embraces Adam in an emotive manner and takes advantage of his naiveness. As Adam accepts the offer of eating the fruit the couple’s destiny is determined.[xxi]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 80) points out that ironically Milton finds Adam as...“Fondly overcome with Femal charm”... Book IX, 999. This is Milton’s tactful method of directing the reader towards a major thesis of the Epic. This being that Eve used her cunningness to persuade Adam into original sin, verbally and as an action. Although some critics disagree with such a literary style, I find it to be most relevant, and comprehensive in its depiction. While giving due credit to Eve from another perspective, one will examine briefly her connection with the Fall. Firstly, to what extent was Eve responsible for the Fall and how did this occurrence eventuate? It should be noted that there is an interlinking between Adam, Eve, and God, together with Raphael and of course Satan here. This will be the focus of the remaining discussion with an emphasis on Book V.[xxii]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 157) points out that without the interference of Raphael (in speaking to them) Adam and Eve would not have experienced the Fall. This was God’s intention to enhance the couple’s ability to avoid temptation. In a brief description we find that Satan initially tempts Eve by falsely appearing in her dreams as a toad, and she awakens unable to resist. Some psychotherapists claim that one can be successful to some extent in placing such thoughts into an ignorant mind, therefore making Milton’s statement valid. Satan, while appearing in an angelic image to Eve in her dream, taking a bite from the apple and suggesting that angels had the same diet, thus assured Eve an avenue to Heaven. This appeared to Eve as a way of gaining knowledge and being divine.[xxiii]
In Book V, 80,
Satan states to Eve while she was dreaming:
...Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods.
…What life the Gods live there,
And so live thou…[xxiv]
C.A. Patrides (1967: 158) states that according to the Bible, Eve fell into temptation due to …”the savour (the smell, as she had not yet tasted it; Milton ascribes this mainly to the dream he has invented, which helps to make the real temptation less trivial”…[xxv]
Although Milton’s depiction of the Fall of Adam and Eve is not based entirely on Biblical fact, he to some extent, provides a convincing and challenging alternative. Namely, one which presents a stimulating and comprehensive personal view on the part of this literary scholar.
1. Milton, John, “Paradise Lost”, London, Penguin Books Ltd., 2000.
2. Patrides, C.A., “Milton’s Epic Poetry: Essays on Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained”, London, Penguin Books Ltd., 1967.
[i] C.A. Patrides, “Milton’s Epic Poetry: Essays on Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained”, London, Penguin Books, 1967, p.74.
[ii] John Milton, “Paradise Lost”, In C.A. Patrides, “Milton’s Epic Poetry: Essays on Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained”, London, Penguin Books, 1967, p.74.
[iii] Patrides, op cit., p.75.
[vii] Patrides, op cit., pp.75-76.
[xi] Patrides, op cit., p.76.
[xiv] Milton, op cit., p.77.
[xv] Patrides, op cit., p.77.
[xvii] Patrides, op cit., p.78.
[xxi] Patrides, op cit., pp, 79-80.
[xxiii] Patrides, op cit., p.157.
[xxiv] Milton, op cit., p.158.