I’d like to expand a bit on the comparison we established in class on Monday between Hell and Heaven, specifically in connection with those place as paradigms for different modes of society. We talked about the main differences between the depictions of Heaven’s gate and Hell’s gate: the former is more populated, busier, ascends, and is shown as more of an entrance than an exit. Hell is designed to keep those who have fallen in, whereas Heaven is an entrance to a better place. I do think it is curious, however, that God (for I assume it was He) chose to entrust the key to the gate of the realm that holds his enemies to the wife/spawn of Satan. Seems to be a bit of a lapse in reasoning, one that Milton conveniently glosses over. This is a digression, though. What exactly makes Heaven so emblematic of a good society? I think this answer lies in the massive industry that Heaven, as a political entity, encompasses. The angels are always busy. God gives a speech in virtually every scene Milton includes him in. During the battle, the angels get right into the middle of it to fight the enemy. This is not the peaceful Heaven that we now imagine – this location becomes the site of a bitter rivalry, a feud between two extreme powers. The political allegory almost writes itself. If we continue in this vein of thought, God as the monarch and Satan as the liberator, how do we handle the following facts: 1) that the liberator ultimately fails (or does he? I could see his corruption of humanity as a victory) and 2) that Milton would then be portraying his own allegiances as aligned with Satan (read: evil). If we take statement number 2 to be true, then it is possible that Milton agrees with much of what he writes as Satan’s speeches. However, what may be more likely is that he simply encoded his views in Satan as a way to avoid the censors, as we know they were looking for any hint of anti-monarchical sentiment. These are all wild speculations at this point, as much to our disappointment we cannot commune with Milton. However, I do think that the text provides ample evidence for this line of reasoning, and it illuminates the depictions of Heaven and Hell in a new light.
In reading Leonard’s article “Language and Knowledge in Paradise Lost” I became particularly interested in his discussion of Adam’s knowledge before he gained the knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam was seemingly born (created? I’m not sure born really works in Adam’s case) with the natural ability and knowledge that allowed him to name all the creatures of the garden as he saw them. By the time Eve was created, Adam had already spent time exploring the garden, discovering his body, his ability to speak, his relationship with God the Creator. It seems to me that Adam had a bit of a home court advantage by the time Eve was created out of his rib. Although Eve did have some things going for her (notably she was made in Adam’s image, but she was somehow simultaneously more beautiful than he,) she seems to lack the initial self awareness that Adam. Adam admits that he didn’t know “who [he] was” (book VIII line 270,) but Eve recalls not knowing “what [she]was” (book IV line 452), failing to recognize her status as a human entity, a “who”. Adam, recognizing in the animals that were his only initial company in the garden an inherent inequality of knowledge and capacity (most obviously that they couldn’t speak) asks God to create for his an equal (“thy help, thy other self”, book VIII line 450), it seems clear that Adam and Eve are not only different, but inequal in their knowledge.
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