“Paradise Lost” Part IV: The Garden of Eden and the Fall of Woman and Man

“Firm they might have stood yet fell.”

Returning to our story, Adam and Eve are living together in the Garden of Eden in innocent love and natural bliss. The bad angel Satan has rebelled against God, but he and his angels have lost a major battle against God and God’s angels. Satan like Wile E. Coyote has now come up with a new subtle plan to undermine God’s new kingdom Earth by bringing sin into the Paradise of the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve - Tintoretto,1550, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

Adam and Eve – Tintoretto,1550, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

John Milton modeled “Paradise Lost” on the ancient Iliad in which the Greek gods are personified and the myths are told about the gods and the mortals during the time of the Trojan War. Milton’s idea was a good one, because the Old Testament of the Bible contains some of our oldest myths including the Creation myth. “Paradise Lost” personifies God, his son Jesus, the angels, and the ancient humans, all in heroic verse.

God repeatedly told Adam and Eve not to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Satan disguised as a serpent slyly seduces Eve through flattery and lies into eating the apple. Eve is goodness and sweetness itself, but she falls for Satan’s lines quickly enough. John Milton, kind of like Satan, over-praises Eve’s beauty, sweetness, and compliance, always an effective strategy for a man. Is “Paradise Lost” anti-feminist? Yes, but not any more or less than the Bible itself. One would need to contort oneself quite severely to see Milton as any kind of feminist, but some critics have done so.

After Eve eats the apple, she realizes what she has done. God’s angels have told her that if she ate the apple she would eventually die. So what does she do? She considers not telling Adam, but then imagines herself dead, and God creating a new woman for Adam. Jealousy gets the best of her, so she tells Adam, and Adam, a good guy but not too smart, joins Eve in eating the apple and they get kicked out of Paradise. And here we are, Adam and Eve’s children no longer living in Paradise.

Odds and Ends

This is my last entry on “Paradise Lost”, so here are some random bits that were too small to fit into any of the other articles.

My favorite word from “Paradise Lost” is ‘thither”’. According to Merriam-Webster it means “to that place” or “a more remote place”. Milton uses the word “thither” about two dozen times. “Thither” is a word that we don’t hear much anymore but which the dictionary does not call archaic. Here is Eve in Paradise Lost:

That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak’d and found myself repos’d,
Under a shade, on flow’rs, much wond’ring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.

The entire text of Paradise Lost can be found at several locations on the Internet for free. At the John Milton Reading Room is the text to all of the works of John Milton including “Paradise Lost”

For another view of the epic, here are ten ways Paradise Lost is like a bad Comic Book.

Thither go me from “Paradise Lost”.
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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for this sequence of reviews, you will be pleased to hear that I have now got my copy on my desk and I’m browsing through it from time:)

    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      Yes, I am pleased you have a copy of ‘Paradise Lost’. One way to look at is that ‘Paradise Lost’ is the Biblical epic poem equivalent of the Iliad containing our creation myths. The story of Adam and Eve surely rivals the stories of Oedipus and all the Greek gods. Milton was a great poet too.

      Reply

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