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

The events in Book IX are like a spark causing the explosion of reactions in Book X. We're going to see the consequences of the Fall on earth, in Heaven, and in Hell. The book contains an enormous variety of action, from the building of the great bridge across Chaos to the suicidal thoughts of Eve. You won't be bored in this book, and you'll even find occasional comic touches-for example, when Death complains that there isn't much meat for him on earth with only two people around.



LINES 1-228. THE SON JUDGES ADAM AND EVE

The book opens with a moralizing summary of what has happened. God allowed Satan to tempt Eve, who in turn corrupted Adam. They had free will and "ought to have still remembered" not to taste the fruit no matter who suggested it. They are clearly guilty. Now it remains to be seen how the penalty will be inflicted.

The guardian angels have returned to Heaven "mute and sad / For man," and a bit shamefaced themselves, for they didn't catch Satan as he entered Paradise. God, speaking from his cloud, absolves them of blame, since nothing they could have done would have prevented Satan from getting in.

At the same time he absolves himself from blame in the Fall. He doesn't seem very sympathetic toward Adam, who doesn't understand that Death will come, even though it hasn't struck immediately. God sends the Son to judge Adam and Eve because that's appropriate to the Son's future role as man's redeemer.

The Son reminds himself that he himself will suffer the worst of these events, as he has promised to do. He will go alone to the Garden of Paradise, and the judgment will be a private matter.

The narrative of the judgment follows Genesis closely (in one case, word for word). Read it so that you can see the source of Adam and Eve's different answers. Adam doesn't come off very well: he blames Eve, and to some extent he blames God. You gave me this woman, he says, and you made her so perfect that I couldn't resist her.

Eve answers with simplicity, as she does in the Biblical account: "The serpent beguiled me and I did eat." With her admission of guilt and acceptance of responsibility, Eve regains some dignity.

The judgment on the serpent-that he and mankind will always be enemies- is followed by a flashforward to the time when the Son in his form as the man Jesus Christ will clean out Hell, fulfilling the punishment on the serpent.

Eve's punishment is the pain of childbirth and domination by her husband. Adam's is hard work. In Book IX, when Adam tried to persuade Eve not to be so compulsive about their work in the garden, he said that they were formed for delight, not work. The Fall has changed all that. Man is now made for work.

At least the instant stroke of Death has been "removed far off." The Son shows that other aspect of his role, service to man, as he provides clothes for Adam and Eve and inwardly gives them his own righteousness to conceal them from God's sight.

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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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