In the bible, we learn about Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, and we just read about when they are created and when they fall in temptation, and then they are banished from heaven. We know this story very well, but John Milton, in his epic poem, “Paradise Lost,” offers us another view of what might have happened in Paradise. Throughout the epic poem, Milton invites us to enter his fantasy world and to experience in some way the epic journey of Satan, God, Christ, and Adam and Eve. During that journey, we are taken to what happened after Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of Knowledge,” and Milton takes us to a scene where Adam and Eve are discussing how they will ask for forgiveness to God and how to redeem their sins best. Adam and Eve, both for the first time, feel what it is like to repent and feel the pain of sin.
Near the end of Book, X Adam talks to Eve about the possible consequences that their sins can bring to them, and he predicts what will happen once they are out of Paradise. He tells Eve that their deeds will go punished and that they will suffer pain and despair. “We are by doom to pay: rather such acts Of contumacy will provoke the Highest” (2020), Adam has realized that the “Highest” is going to be upset with them and that it will carry consequences. He expects nothing but a doomed future for their actions. I find it interesting how Adam suddenly changes from a positive man to a very negative man that seems doom in everything. His character is similar to that of Satan; when Satan rebels God, he feels like hell is every place he goes. The hell for Adam in this case, I think, would be to be mortal and not be any more in the grace of God.
Milton, through Adam’s soliloquy, lets us inside the mind of Adam and shows us how he felt after he and Eve ate the apple. Adam shows signs of fear and of shame like that of a child when they disobey. I can imagine him as a big brother getting in trouble with his little sister, and planning in ways to face their angry mother. Adam speaks of the consequences they will face, and one line that I find fascinating is “To make death in us live” (2020). Because Adam right there realizes that they are no longer the immortal beings they once were and that it is a consequence of their sinful acts. I can imagine that the concept of death must have been incredibly hard to comprehend since it is something foreign to them. It also puts a time limit as to how much time they have to be together. Later on, these words are mirror when Jesus comes to Earth and dies for our sins to “bring us back to life,” as a symbol to conquer death. After this realization, Adam speaks of more foreshadowing consequences that humanity will endure and sort of visions how difficult it will be to live on Earth without God’s help.
Milton makes Adam be like a prophet and a visionary of doom. I do not know if Adam, when he was in such a stress state of mind, spoke unconsciously about how Jesus would come to be on Earth even before the Archangel came to talk to him and how he was going to suffer colds and the hardships of Earth. “Satan, who in the serpent hath contrived Against us this deceit: To crush his head Would be revenge indeed; which will be lost By death brought on ourselves” (2020) and he continues talking about how Satan will end their days of being “childless” and about how the punishment also will be with them. I find this a little complicated to understand why Milton wrote Adam saying those words like prophecies, or I do not know it might be because of the poem structure and to relate it to what is written in the bible. But it is fascinating to see how he mirrors Adam’s words to that of the bible and how he is creating already a hell in the head of Adam, where humanity is punished for his deeds.
Adam describes how to live on Earth will be like without the divine protection of God and the new reality of death; “Leave cold the night, how we his gathered beams Reflected, may with matter sere foment, or by collision of two bodies grind The air attrite to fire” (2021) The Norton Anthology notes suggest that Adam here is talking about the invention of fire and that he predicts that it will be the only way we will be warm without the protection of God. I find this interesting both as a technique to justify how Adam and Even were able to survive on Earth without first going through the process of evolution and with the knowledge already of how to manipulate the environment to shield them from cold nights. After weighing the outcomes of what might happen to them, Adam suggests to Eve that it will be better to ask for forgiveness to God and that he might listen to their pleading.
Adam talks to Eve about the mercifulness of God and that he might forgive them for what they did if they are truly repent. “What better can we do, than to place Repairing where he judg’d us, prostrate fall Before him reverent and there confess” (2021), here Adam begins to tell Eve how they should ask for forgiveness and that there is no other way for them to choose something else. He continues, “Humbly our faults and pardon beg, with tears Watering the ground and our sighs the Air Frequenting, sent from our hearts contrite, sin sign Of sorrow unfeign’d, and humiliation meek” (2021) I can imagine them like little children trying to come up with a technique to convince their parents that they are really sorry. I think this is how Adam is picturing all of this action because they have never really experienced before, and he thinks that’s the way of asking God for mercy. They relate their feelings to the physical world, like the tears and the sighs. I think this is very intriguing since we see an Adam that is connecting physically to the metal in a way that they never did before and thanks to the “Tree of Knowledge” they are now more human that are capable of having feelings and somewhat made them aware of what other people feel, in this case, God.
Adam assures Eve that with their repentance, they will be forgiven by God and that he will show mercy. I think Adam thinks that he will be forgiven that easily by God and that everything will be back to normal, but he at the end of Book X doubts if he is correct and questions of that’s how God is going to react to their pleading. By doing these actions, Adam decided to join by obediently from now on and try to be on God’s good side. I think this is important because they could have chosen to be disobedient and ally with Satan that offered them a more natural way to carry on with life without the feeling of regret or being forced to acknowledge the existence of God. Their repentance will allow Adam and Eve to be possibly forgiven and humanity and eventually reach salvation.
Milton concludes book X by repeating the words that Adam said and comments that they did as they had planned and asked God for forgiveness. I like how Milton repeats this with the same words and the same structure to point to us how important it was for Adam and Eve to ask for forgiveness. I think this demonstrates that Adam and Eve tried to repair our relationship with God and to save humanity from the evident doom. God listens to their plea and decides to tell them that he will send his son to be the salvation of the world from the sins they committed. But Adam and Eve will still be with hell in their heads just as Satan was, but hoping for a better future, they leave Paradise with the sense that they will be back there once again, unlike Satan.
Milton showed us how Adam connected his emotions to the physical world with tears and pain. He also showed us how we can be forgiven if we are truly repentant of what we did and that there is eventually salvation to those that do so.