Paradise Lost as a "Fortunate Fall"
Milton’s Paradise Lost deviates significantly from the unadorned version of man’s fall from grace found in Genesis. This, however, was not a problem for Milton who (as a Puritan) believed that the embellishments he wrote were divinely inspired since God worked through the individual, not through organized religion. Because of this inventiveness, Paradise Lost, which traces heavenly events from the fall of Satan through the fall of man, has been interpreted in various ways. One such interpretation, discussed by Lovejoy in “Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall,” is that although the fall introduced man to evil, it also propagated good. Milton’s text in many ways embodies this paradox, showing both the benefits and losses to Adam and Eve, as well as mankind, which resulted from original sin.
Milton is ambiguous whether knowledge, the most obvious acquisition of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, is a benefit or a detriment to man. The tree is forbidden not because knowledge is injurious to man, but as “the only sign of our [their] obedience left/ Among so many signs of power and rule” (Paradise Lost, Book 4, lines 428-429). Knowledge is disallowed as a test of man’s faith, not because it will hurt his loyalty. Satan,...
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