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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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1. B

2. C

3. A

4. B

5. B

6. A

7. B

8. C

9. C


11. Milton has deliberately taken one action and described it in two contexts. What is he saying in each version? Consider Eve's two dreams: who causes the dream in Book V? Who causes the dream in Books XI and XII? What happens in each? Are both prophetic? (in the same sense?) What should Eve have learned from each? Did she learn? What feelings are generated from each dream-for Eve and for you, the reader? You will need to ask and then answer questions like these for each of the pairs in order to go beyond the most obvious conclusion, that Milton wanted to show how one thing-a dream, a council, lovemaking-is different under the influence of Heaven and under the influence of Hell.

12. Think about how the poem moves from Hell to earth, then through four books of flashbacks, then to the climactic action, and then through four books of consequences. Does this remind you of a play? a movie? a serial? anything else? What does starting in Hell do for the focus? It certainly tends to make Satan extraordinarily important, and it makes it more difficult for us to find God sympathetic.

What do those flashbacks do? You might think about a TV movie you've seen or some other dramatic presentation in which flashbacks are important. Writers use flashbacks because they want to interest you in the story before they give you information you might not find fascinating until you care about what's going on. Is this what Milton did?

The climax of Paradise Lost is clearly Book IX, but we wouldn't understand the significance of the events in it without the long buildup. Then there are still three books to go. The note on Book XI in the Story section tells something about the function of Books XI and XII, and you should be able to think of other reasons why they are essential to the story and the meaning.

13. Look first at descriptions of Adam and Eve before the Fall. Book IV covers almost a complete day, and Book V describes the wakening and morning activities. You will have to decide how much of Book IX can be thought of as before the Fall, for Eve is behaving a little differently under the influence of her dream. You'll want to talk about Adam's description of the formation of Eve and his passionate love for her. The big question is: was the marriage ideal before the Fall, or were there the seeds of problems?

Look then at what happens right after Eve has eaten the apple; Adam's decision to follow Eve into destruction has its roots in their relationship. Consider their actions in the rest of Book IX and how their relationship slowly begins to heal in Book X. In Books XI and XII it has stabilized. How do Adam and Eve put up with their punishments, including their expulsion from Paradise? Is the marriage the same as it was in Book IV? Has it deteriorated or gotten better? Has it moved closer to the ideal, "he for God only, she for God in him?"

14. God's discussion of free will in Book III is the central statement in the poem about free will and determinism. In Milton's philosophy, you experience free will and can exercise it, even though God knows what is to happen. Criticize this notion if you want to, but understand that it is the framework of the poem's action.

You'll want to consider the nature of true freedom and false freedom, contrasting those characters who know what true freedom is and accept it, and those who follow their own concept of freedom and suffer the consequences. Abdiel is probably the best example of a character who understands true freedom, the acceptance of God's will and perfect obedience. Notice how God praises him. Satan, Eve, and then Adam follow their own will, and paradoxically they end up in servitude-the opposite of freedom.

There are even more interesting questions to explore. How free is God? There are significant actions God can't take, such as destroying Satan. And apparently he can't alter the plan set out for the Fall. Is he then free? At the end he leaves Satan alone in Hell, and Satan seems to be free to go on causing trouble for the World. He doesn't even remain a serpent for long. The question of freedom isn't a simple one.

Try to relate this to your own experience. Are you really free to do exactly what you want? How is your freedom limited? Do you trust any exterior force, such as God? Perhaps we all do, in the sense that we have to trust what we're given as mental and physical equipment. Thinking about your own ideas will help you to understand the choices made by the poem's character's.

15. Make a list of speeches that rely on logic, and you'll have a nice lot of examples to choose from. First there are the speeches of Moloch, Belial, Mammon, Beelzebub, and Satan in Book II, all of which are perfectly logical. You'll begin to realize that logical doesn't mean correct from the fact that several of the speeches contradict each other. Then look at Satan's argument with Abdiel, Adam's arguments to God when he wants a mate; Adam and Eve's dispute on the morning of the Fall; the serpent's arguments to Eve; Eve's arguments to herself when she decides to drag Adam down with her; and Adam and Eve's quarrels after the Fall.

(As part of your answer, you'll need to contrast these speeches with others that don't rely on logic. You might refer to Adam's speech summing up his wisdom in Book XII and to several of Michael's pieces of advice to Adam.)

Consider the logical structure of one or two of the speeches. Ask what are the premises (assumptions) of the argument, and what do the speakers think is implied by those premises. For example, Eve is deceived by the serpent's argument that he has eaten the fruit and he isn't dead, so why should she die?

In the end you should be able to make statements about the importance of assumptions to reasonable arguments and about the difference between trusting to logic and trusting in God's will. If Eve had distrusted her own logic and trusted God's commands, she would not have believed the serpent.

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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes

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