Let’s just say Paradise Lost takes some work. Milton’s verse is line after line of shiny depictions of the heavens or Paradise, a beautiful yet massive jungle of words that quickly overwhelms me and I can’t see the point he’s trying to make or the storyline anymore. I have to roll up my sleeves and work through it, but I don’t have a nice, sharp machete, just the dull plastic knife that is my brain. Oh look, now I’m getting poetic!
God has been observing Satan and his band of dastardly angels and knows they are up to no good. He is outraged at the ingratitude of the fallen angels for using the gifts they were blessed with to oppose his power. God also foresees mankind’s downfall and is angry at Adam and Eve’s failure to obey his command not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He feels remorse that mankind chose to disobey, but that there’s no other alternative than to punish them. The son of God steps forward and offers himself as a sacrifice to save mankind. God is both happy and sad to accept the offer, but knows justice and mercy will be served through this act. Meanwhile, Satan transforms into a cherub and ingratiates himself to Uriel in order to find out how to get to Paradise.
Of course, a lot more happened in Book III than I described. However, it was hard for me to understand what Milton was trying to say and things only became a bit clearer after I read Carolyn’s post. I thought the most interesting thing about this part was the issue of free will and how even if God could foresee the events to come, he could not interfere or be blamed because Adam and Eve had the free will to choose to do good. It was also interesting to me that God and his son (notably not called Jesus here) are separate characters and not the same entity. We also get a glimpse of a father-son relationship where the son of God doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself for the greater good, but there seemed to me also an eagerness to please the Almighty.
Satan arrives in Paradise, hellbent on stirring up trouble. As he explores and spies on the inhabitants of the garden, he does some soul-searching about what he is about to do because it pains him to see how gorgeous this world is and how innocent and happy its creatures. We are then introduced to Adam and Eve, the original man and woman. They are nauseatingly flawless and perfect in every way. From their conversation, Satan learns that the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is forbidden to them. He now knows what he needs to do. Meanwhile, Uriel has realized Satan has tricked him and he asks the angel, Gabriel for help. Gabriel confronts Satan, but Satan takes off just before the two are about to come to blows.
As discussed previously, I can’t help feeling for Satan again. Yes, he’s a bad boy and it’s his fault mankind failed the biggest test ever, but his inner conflict somehow makes me empathize with his character. I would even dare say he makes you believe he could be saved. As for Adam and Eve, when they didn’t remind me of living dolls, I felt kind of bad for them too because they are so sweet and innocent right now. They have no idea they are going to be tricked into making a fatally bad decision and thrown out of Paradise forever. Not even having perfect hair can save them.
What will happen next? Join us for the Paradise Lost read-a-long!