I have to admit it feels like so much time has passed since I read these two books, but remember vividly that we have now arrived at the main event: The Fall. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I feel for Adam and Eve. They’re just two innocent, good-looking kids who got caught up in a showdown between God and Satan.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
After Raphael leaves Eden, Milton invokes Urania to inspire him with words to describe what happens next to Adam and Eve. The lovers decide to separate to complete their work in the garden. Meanwhile, Satan sneaks back into Eden and decides to disguise himself as a serpent. He becomes overwhelmed with envy and some doubt, as he deeply admires the paradise of Eden and what mankind will inherit. But he is also bitter and full of pride, determined to show God that he doesn’t take his punishment lightly.
Satan finds Eve and begins to charm her, suggesting she eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He convinces her that God only said not to eat from the tree as a test of their independence. God actually wants Adam and Eve to have the god-like powers the fruit can provide. Eve eats the fruit and she hurries to find Adam, so he can eat the fruit too. But Adam is horrified that she has disobeyed God’s order and fallen for Satan’s trick. Then in a grand gesture of love, he decides to they will be doomed together. He eats the fruit too and immediately feels energized, then frisky. Drunk of the fruit’s power, Adam and Eve give into their sudden feelings of lust.
For those of you like me who have no clue who Urania is supposed to be, I looked her up and discovered that in Greek mythology she is the muse of astronomy and a daughter of Zeus. I’m surprised that Milton felt he needed to invoke anyone to inspire him with words since he’s done a pretty good job now that we’re up to Book IX. What struck me the most about this book was how racy (and yet poetic!) Milton’s language was when Adam comes onto Eve and they run off to their flower-lined bower to satisfy their desires. I take great delight imagining how shocking this writing must have been back in 1667.
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All-seeing God and his angels know what has transpired. God sends the Son to the Garden of Eden to judge Adam and Eve. The Son finds the lovers hiding in the bushes because they are now ashamed to be naked. Once they admit to eating the fruit, the Son sentences the snake to remain forever an animal that will slither on the ground and eat dust. The Son sentences Eve to feel pain in childbirth and be submissive to her husband. Lastly, the Son sentences Adam to a life of toil obtaining food from the earth and death for both of them. After appointing Sin and Death to rule over the Earth, Satan returns to hell to gloat. However, he and his merry crew of angels turn into snakes and other nasty creatures. Everything they eat tastes like dust as the Son said it would. Devastated, Adam and Eve discuss what they will do next and decide it is better to live and for the rest of their days kneel before God, repent and beg for forgiveness.
Since I’m familiar with what happens in the Bible, it never occurred to me before that Adam and Eve might contemplate suicide. Even though they are now self-aware after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, they are still relatively innocent and emotionally underdeveloped. Failing God probably feels like everything that is wonderful about life has been lost and there’s no point to anything anymore. Again, it makes me feel sad for them. On a side note, Satan and his angels turning into snakes was pretty cool!
Next on Paradise Lost … the grand finale.