Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
In Paradise Lost, we learn that a crucial element to attaining happiness is recognizing the eternal presence of God in ourselves and in others. Lack of recognition, particularly on the part of Satan and of Eve, causes separation from God, which leads these characters as well as those with whom they are in relationships, to untold misery. Both make the mistake of choosing to separate themselves from their source of wisdom and happiness - Satan by rebelling against God, and Eve by rejecting both her relationship with Adam and with God when she is deceived by Satan.
I will argue that Satan’s unsuccessful desire to be parted from God is the cause of his misery. I also turn my readers’ attention to the struggle of Eve, once separated from the eternal (God) and humanity (Adam), to become redeemed. I maintain that this struggle is more significant due to the fact that Eve — as a creature created from Adam and thus one more degree removed from God than Adam - is a fallen creature when she repents. Significantly, it is through Eve’s efforts that Adam becomes reconciled to God.
Paradise Lost demonstrates Satan’s internalized hell but also reveals the alternate reality of joy. This joy, stemming from doing God’s will (right reason), occurs when one is more concerned about others than one’s self, as the Son and the good angels are. As readers, we also experience the painful but redemptive process of recognizing one’s sins, asking for forgiveness and being forgiven, which is demonstrated by the actions of Eve and Adam.
My paper argues that those who are able to maintain the proper perspective, such as the archangel Abdiel and the Son, live joyfully - lives that are full and marked by joy. Those who are not, live in despair. Through the Fall, Adam and Eve demonstrate their ability to misunderstand or not heed right reason; they also experience despair. However, the couple also receives God's redemptive love and they experience the peace found in reconciliation when they recognize their sin and seek atonement.
Paradise Lost invites the reader to feel deeply the misery inherent in a selfcentered perspective as personified by Satan and his horrid crew; to experience the ineffable bliss resulting from using right reason and focusing on others as lived out by the Son and the good angels; and to witness the entire spectrum of emotions between these opposite perspectives as experienced by Eve and Adam.
Finally, we empathize with Eve’s recognition of her sinfulness and model of seeking forgiveness and atonement (at-one-ment). Through this recognition our first parents are able, having been fortified by the Son, to recognize their sinfulness and thus take the steps they need in order to be reconciled to God. Thus Milton, using a story whose “facts” he was not at liberty to change, offers us Eve as the fallen creature through whom humanity both falls and is redeemed.
Allen, Mary, "Recognition and Reconciliation in Paradise Lost" (2005). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1092.