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Paradise Lost Essay

Introduction

❶Next Milton's Grand Style.

Study Questions

After both Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit, what is the first thing they do?
John Milton
by John Milton

In a certain sense, Paradise Lost was not an original tale, given that it recapitulates some of the best-known biblical tales, namely the conflict between God and the Devil and the temptation in the Garden of Eden. God in Paradise Lost is not always, or even most of the time, a nice guy.

The reader is thus entrapped in a moral dilemma: How can one like the Devil? How is this moral incongruency resolved? What might you add to that discussion? In Book 3 God, who sees all, is aware of Satan's plan and creates a remedy for Man's imminent fall: In the meantime, Satan makes his way toward earth, deceiving the angel Uriel, who guards the way.

Uriel directs Satan to earth. In Book 4 Satan finds Eden. There he sees Adam and Eve and listens to them talk. The couple recall their creation and their first meeting, and Satan burns with grief and jealousy. That night, in the shape of a toad at Eve's ear, Satan influences her dreams as she sleeps.

However, he is discovered by angels guarding Paradise and departs. Book 5 opens with Eve relating her dream to Adam. In the dream, Satan, appearing as a good angel, leads Eve to the forbidden tree, eats the fruit, and encourages her to do the same. Later, the angel Raphael comes to talk to Adam and warns him of Satan's plans.

In response to Adam's questions, Raphael relates the story of the war in heaven. This narration concludes Book 5 and continues through all of Book 6.

In response to further questions from Adam, Raphael recounts the story of the Creation in Book 7. In Book 8 Adam in turn tells Raphael about what he recalls since his creation and the creation of Eve, the partner whom he requested from God, and they discuss the nature of human love.

Book 9 presents the downfall first of Eve then of Adam. Satan sneaks back into the garden and hides inside a serpent. The next morning, as Eve is working in the garden, he goes to her and convinces her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, although she knows God has forbidden it. Knowing she has done wrong, and unable to bear being separated from Adam, she convinces him to eat the fruit too. From that moment, lust and anger define their relationship. In Book 10 the Son comes to judge Adam and Eve, who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

They are to be expelled from Eden. Eve will experience pain in childbirth and must submit to the will of her husband; Adam must labor for his food. Both will know death. Sin and Death are pleased with Satan's success and make plans to come live on earth, building a bridge between earth and hell in order to ease the path between them. Satan returns to hell to celebrate with the other fallen angels, but they are all turned into snakes. God reorders the heavens and earth, bringing about harsh weather and climates.

Adam and Eve are despondent, and Eve considers suicide before Adam relents in his anger. They decide to ask God for forgiveness and are glad that they are still together. In Book 11 the Son is moved by their remorse and intercedes for them with God.

God forgives them but insists that they leave Paradise, sending Michael to guide them out and instruct them on proper living. He also reassures Adam that the Son will come and conquer death by taking on Adam's punishment himself. Michael also tells Adam that although they must leave Paradise, God is everywhere on earth and will be near them.

Michael then leads Adam and Eve to the gates of Paradise, and they set off in the world together, hand in hand. Satan provides a foil for God, setting up an illegitimate kingdom in hell that contrasts with the natural and just rule of God in heaven. Satan's arguments are often compelling: The contrast compels readers to judge the true nature of liberty and the true source of authority, and encourages them to distinguish between genuine freedom and mere lawlessness or chaos, while firmly asserting humanity's free will with respect to God.

Among the hierarchies of greatest interest to Milton in Paradise Lost is that found in marriage. As some critics have noted, Milton spends a large amount of time establishing and reinforcing an idea that almost no one in his age would have seriously contested: The extent to which the poem actually portrays women as inferior has long been a matter of debate, but it clearly states, more than once, that women must be in a mediated position: Eve relates to God through Adam; she is in the background when Adam talks to the angels; she is expected to follow Adam's lead.

The first part of Milton's purpose in Paradise Lost then is to show that disobedience leads to a breakdown of hierarchical or social order with disastrous consequences.

Some have argued that Milton puts himself in a contradictory position in Paradise Lost , since he supported the overthrow of Charles I. In his political writings, Milton makes it clear that obeying an inferior is equally as bad as disobeying a superior. In the case of a king, the people must determine if the king is truly their superior or not.

Thus, Milton justifies his position toward Charles and toward God. Milton's theme in Paradise Lost , however, does not end with the idea of disobedience. Milton says that he will also "assert Eternal Providence.

Because Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and disobeyed God, they provided the opportunity for God to show love, mercy, and grace so that ultimately the fall produces a greater good than would have happened otherwise. This is the argument about the fall called felix culpa or "happy fault. The general reasoning is that God created Man after the rebellion of Satan. His stated purpose is to show Satan that the rebellious angels will not be missed, that God can create new beings as he sees fit.

God gives Man a free will, but at the same time, God being God, knows what Man will do because of free will. Over and over in Paradise Lost , God says that Man has free will, that God knows Man will yield to Satan's temptation, but that he God is not the cause of that yielding; He simply knows that it will occur.

This point is theologically tricky. In many ways, it makes God seem like a cosmic prig. He knows what Man will do, but he does nothing to stop him because somehow that would be against the rules. He could send Raphael with a more explicit warning; he could tell Gabriel and the other guards where Satan will enter Eden; he could seal Satan up in Hell immediately.

He could do a number of things to prevent the fall, but he does nothing. From the standpoint of fictional drama, a reader may be correct in faulting God for the fall of Adam and Eve.

If Man truly has free will, he must be allowed to exercise it. Because of free will then, Adam and Eve disobey God and pervert the natural hierarchy. Death is the result, and Death could be the end of the story if Paradise Lost were a tragedy. Eternal Providence moves the story to a different level.

Death must come into the world, but the Son steps forward with the offer to sacrifice himself to Death in order to defeat Death. Through the Son, God is able to temper divine justice with mercy, grace, and salvation.

Without the fall, this divine love would never have been demonstrated. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, mercy, grace, and salvation occur through God's love, and all Mankind, by obeying God, can achieve salvation. The fall actually produces a new and higher love from God to Man. This idea then is the final point of Milton's theme — the sacrifice of the Son which overcomes Death gives Man the chance to achieve salvation even though, through the sin of Adam and Eve, all men are sinful.

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- Literary Analysis Essay Paradise Lost John Milton's Paradise Lost is a configuration of the biblical interpretations in Genesis written in the 17th Century. In many ways this story is like the story of Adam .

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Paradise Lost John Milton The following entry presents criticism of Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost (published in ten books in ; enlarged into twelve books in ). See also, John Milton Criticism. . Major Themes In Paradise Lost Essay Words: Pages: 6 Paragraphs: 19 Sentences: 90 Read Time: Modern criticism of Paradise Lost has taken many different views of Milton's ideas in the poem.

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Starting an essay on John Milton's Paradise Lost? Organize your thoughts and more at our handy-dandy Shmoop Writing Lab. John Milton's Paradise Lost John Milton’s Paradise Lost is filled with fantastical tales from the depths of Hell, extravagant descriptions of the fallen angels, and a .