Paradise Lost

John Milton

BACKGROUND

John Milton lived from 1608-1674. Paradise Lost first appeared in 1667 (it was reorganized 1674). This is an epic (very long) poem. The story of Satan's rebellion against God and of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, this is generally considered to be the greatest epic in the English language. Milton later went on to publish Paradise Regained (1671) which tells how Jesus overcame Satan's temptations.

MAIN CHARACTERS

Satan: The main dude of the story. He was a top angel who wants to rule Heaven. He hates having to follow or be second to God or his son, Jesus. Satan gets pissed when Godís son is given more power. After losing his revolution in Heaven, he canít handle the loss, so he ruins the lives of Godís newest favorite creation, Adam and Eve. Satanís not an ass all the time -- he doesnít want to mess too badly with Adam and Eve, and misses the beauty of heaven, but he feels he has to do evil. He struggles to be free, but his huge ego and pride get in the way.

Beelzebub: Another fallen angel, better known as Lord of the Flies. He supports Satan when heís down in the beginning of the story.

God: He knows Adam and Eve are going to sin, but is pissed at them for breaking his rule -- they werenít supposed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He wants them to stay innocent, like children. But through his sonís pleading, he allows them to later be saved. He gives his power to his son, Jesus, to fight Satan.

Godís Son: Jesus, though never called so in the story, since he didnít come to the earth as a person until his virgin birth through Mary. He beats Satan and saves the future of mankind by his later sacrifice. Heís the middle-man between God and Adam and Eve.

Raphael: An angel who is sent by God to warn Adam and Eve of Satanís plan. He tells them all about the war in heaven.

Adam: The first man. Heís loyal to God and really loves his wife, Eve. After she eats the apple, he knows sheís lost, but out of his love for her, he eats it, too. Heís also curious about the universe and creation, and asks a lot of good questions.

Eve: The first woman and Adamís wife, who really gets the short end of the stick. She takes the bite of the apple, but Satan does an amazing job of convincing her to become more knowledgeable. She was working all day in the hot sun, when Satan shows her the juicy fruit. How couldnít she?

PLOT

Satan and all the other angels who fought against God and lost, find themselves in hell, their new home. Bummed that they lost, they decide to ruin his newest creatures, Adam and Eve. Satan flies to earth to see whatís up with the new planet, Earth, and Adam and Eve.

Upstairs, God is watching, and, being God, knows of Satanís plan, and how Adam and Eve will be charmed and fail him by eating the forbidden apple. He doesnít want them to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. He is pissed. He gave them everything, wants them to stay innocent, and to live forever. If they eat and become aware, and know good and evil, theyíll die. They are like kids who God wants to keep free from pain. But he knows they will disobey him. After throwing up his hands, he allows his favorite and only son, Jesus, to some day take the hit and die for Adam and Eveís sin.

Meanwhile, Satan visits earth and starts his damage. He whispers to Eve while she is asleep about the Tree of Knowledge. Two angels stop him, but not before Eve is already scared of disobeying God. Adam comforts her. God wants to be sure that Adam and Eve know the deal: that they are finished if they eat from the Tree of Knowledge. So he sends down one of his top angels, Raphael, to tell them not to eat the apple and all about the war Satan started.

Being warned by Raphael doesnít really help. The next morning Satan hides himself in a snake and watches Eve work in the hot sun. She is surprised when the snake talks to her. If a snake could learn to talk, why couldnít she learn of the mysteries of the world? She becomes convinced that knowledge and death are worth the price of ignorance. Scrunch! She eats the apple. Sheís psyched. She feels like a god. She wants Adam, and tells him how the apple has opened her eyes. Adam is bummed though, he knows theyíre done, but Eve gets him horny and he doesnít want her to die alone. So he eats it, too. Then they go wild. After theyíre done, shame and guilt hit them for the first time. They have the first fight.

God sends Jesus to earth to let Adam and Eve learn their penalty. Itís the biblical stuff: Eve and all women will be inferior to their husbands and men and will have to deal with the pain of childbirth. The ground Adam walks on will be cursed -- what that means isnít clear, except heís going to know lifeís a bitch, and that heíll die. And the snake will have to crawl on its belly his whole life, too. Feeling sorry for them, Jesus gives them clothes, then leaves for heaven.

Meanwhile, Satan is feeling good. He has Sin and Death build an express lane to earth. They no longer are confined to hell, but will get a big apartment on earth. All of Satanís buddies have been changed by God into snakes. God also reminds them that in the end, heíll have the last laugh.

Down on earth, Eve tries to make up with Adam. Heís depressed and pushes her away, until he finally takes her back, hoping someday things will get better. They pray to God for forgiveness and Jesus lets his dad know about how badly they feel. He accepts them back into the family, but insists they leave Paradise. He sends the angel Michael to escort them out, but not before giving him a view of a future of chaos and killing that will happen in the future because of their mistake. Michael does inform them of the second coming, a new paradise that will come after. Adam feels much relief, wakes his wife, and hand in hand, they leave Paradise.

SECTION BY SECTION

SECTION 1

  • Satan has lost his fight with God.
  • Satan tells his boys about Godís new creations, Earth and Adam and Eve.

SECTION 2

  • Satan decides to visit earth.
  • As Satan leaves Hell, he runs into his forgotten wife/sister, Sin, and their son, Death.

SECTION 3

  • God sees that Satan plans to mess with Adam and Eve.
  • God knows the future, and is pissed at Adam and Eve for eating the apple.
  • Godís son calms his dad, and offers to die for mankind in the future.

SECTION 4

  • Satan views Earth and is jealous of its beauty.
  • He overhears Adam tell Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Satan whispers to Eve while sheís asleep, getting her to think about disobeying Godís order.

SECTION 5

  • Eve tells Adam of her strange dream.
  • Adam soothes her nerves.
  • Raphael, a good angel, comes to earth to warn Adam of Satanís plan.

SECTION 6

  • Raphael talks to Adam for this whole section.
  • He tells Adam how Satan and the other bad angels started a war in heaven.
  • Raphael also tells him how Godís son beat him on the third day of battle.

SECTION 7

  • Raphael still talks to Adam.
  • He tells Adam how God created the earth and its creatures in 6 days.

SECTION 8

  • Raphael and Adam are still talking.
  • Adam asks Raphael some questions about the solar system.
  • Raphael tells him not to think so much and to be faithful to God.

SECTION 9

  • Satan returns to earth.
  • Satan hides in the snake.
  • Satan gets Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Eve gets Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
  • Adam and Eve have wild sex.
  • Adam and Eve have their first fight.

SECTION 10

  • Godís son punishes Adam and Eve.
  • Sin and Death are now apart of earthís creatures.
  • Satan brags about his success in hell.
  • God turns all the bad angels into snakes.
  • Satan is turned into a snake, too.

SECTION 11

  • Adam and Eve pray to God to forgive them.
  • God accepts their pleas.
  • Adam and Eve must leave the Garden of Eden.

SECTION 12

  • Another good angel, Michael, tells Adam that eventually Godís son will save everyone.
  • Adam is hopeful for the long-term future.
  • Adam and Eve leave the Garden of Eden.

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • How does Satanís desire for freedom differ from the American tradition of freedom?
  • Point out the irony of having to follow something in order to be free.
  • Why doesnít God want Adam and Eve to have knowledge? Perhaps keeping them ignorant keeps them innocent and away from pain. However, their lack of knowledge also gives them no control.
  • Consider Satanís human qualities -- you can feel his jealousy and rage, while the other characters are more like cartoon characters who do not feel.
  • Miltonís use of language makes reading the poem like watching a really colorful movie. The scenes of hell and of the devil in the first section are really filled with vibrant images.