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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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OTHER ANGELS

Ithuriel finds Satan squatting next to Eve's ear while she sleeps. As he touches the toad with his spear, it immediately becomes Satan. A slanging match follows. Zephon accompanies Ithuriel on the mission, and together they bring back Satan to Gabriel. Zophiel is the cherub who sees the approach of the rebel army on the second day of the War in Heaven and warns the heavenly host.

ADAM

The clue to Adam's character is his relationship to Eve. It ought to be his relationship to God, but it isn't-and that fact causes Adam's fall. Adam has to argue with God to get Eve (although it is only a mate he seeks at that point). When he sees her he falls so deeply in love with her that everything good seems embodied in her. He knows that Eve is not as close to God as he is, and he realizes that it is her beauty that he worships. Love is supreme and love "leads up to Heaven."

It is for love and for Eve that Adam eats the apple. As soon as he sees her with a branch from the Tree of Knowledge in her hand, he knows what has happened-as she does not. In his soliloquy, he makes his decision:

for with thee Certain my resolution is to die; How can I live without thee?

(IX, 906-908)

So his fall is different from Eve's. He does not directly fall to temptation, but to his desire to be with her, no matter what happens. God the Son puts his finger on the matter right away: "Was she thy God, that thou didst obey / Before his voice?" (X, 145-146). Adam has upset the proper order of things. Nothing must come before God.



He certainly learns from experience, although too late. Before the Fall, he allows Eve to persuade him that it is all right for her to work in the Garden separately from him-the fatal decision. But afterward he accepts neither of her suggestions-that they not have children and that they commit suicide.

Following his initial despair after the Fall, Adam's character improves. He forgives Eve with the sensible idea that they must now be each other's comfort in a world changed from the Paradise to the kingdom of Sin and Death. It is Adam who suggests that they should plead for God's mercy. He asserts his leadership by insisting that Eve leave him alone to speak with Michael. And it is to Adam alone-Eve sleeps under a benign drug-Michael reveals the future.

Adam's relationship to the angels who visit him from Heaven is always courteous and correct, for he knows that he is inferior to them in the hierarchy established by God. He has no difficulty with that position. It seems as if Adam was made to be a follower rather than a leader until the Fall brought him face to face with his responsibility.

Finally he has learned. His last speech, as Michael points out, is "The sum / Of wisdom." In it Adam says that it is best to love and fear God; to depend on him; to work against evil, content with small victories; to stand up for the sake of truth, no matter what it costs; and to die understanding Death is the gate to life.

This is very hard won wisdom. But Adam is the first man, and like all of us after him, he can only learn through bitter experience.

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