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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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BOOK V

LINES 1-219. MORNING IN PARADISE

Adam awakes, surprised to find that Eve is still asleep. After he wakes her gently, she tells him the dream which we know was put into her mind by the toad-Satan-who squatted by her head during the night.

Eve's dream foretells exactly what will happen. In it she hears a voice she thinks is Adam's, calling her to enjoy the night by walking to the Tree of Knowledge. There she meets an angel who plucks fruit from the Tree, using the argument that knowledge should not be forbidden to man. He offers Eve the fruit, promising that it will make her into a goddess. The fruit is so marvelously appetizing that she tastes it, and immediately she is given knowledge of the earth by seeing it from the clouds, as a goddess would. The dream ends as the guide disappears and Eve finds herself back in Paradise, asleep.



Although Adam comforts her, he is puzzled by the work of evil in a being who is "Created pure." Then he explains how dreams happen. His explanation is the first of what you may think of as the lectures of Book V. These lectures are Milton's version of the psychology and cosmology underlying Paradise Lost. You will be surprised at the variety of thinking in these lectures. The explanation of dreams, for example, is not far from current theory. But the hierarchy by which all lower things, even the planets, feed the higher ones, will strike you as medieval.

The explanation of dreams is not unlike one you may have heard, once you change a few terms. For Milton, Reason is the chief mental faculty, assisted by Fancy (imagination), which works on the input given by the senses. When we sleep, Fancy escapes from the control of Reason and produces "Wild work," with actions and ideas jumbled and mismatched. You may recognize similarities in this explanation to the Freudian scheme in which the unconscious expresses desires in dreams, when it escapes from the restraining influence of the waking consciousness.

Milton says that the past becomes present in dreams, a fact which makes Adam think that Eve's dream was caused by their evening discussion of the Tree of Knowledge. Of course we know better: we know as Adam doesn't that Satan put the dream in Eve's head. Adam hopes (but not with complete confidence) that she would never do what she had dreamed. This irony is a little heavy-handed, you may think.

Adam kisses away Eve's tears, and they go out to make their morning prayer, which consists of requests that all parts of the universe will join with them in praising God. Then they begin their gardening chores.

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