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Turmoil of Milton’s World Reflected in Milton’s Paradise Lost

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The Turmoil of Milton’s World Reflected in Paradise Lost

"To explain the ways of God to men" (Invocation, 26) Milton loftily proclaims his goal in writing Paradise Lost. He will, he asserts, clarify many ambiguities of the Bible itself. Thereby begins one of the greatest epic poems in literary history – and the war of the sexes is raised to new heights. Milton claims to be the mouthpiece of God. If so, God was quite the rhetorician, not to mention misogynist. A being of absolute reason, he fails to understand how his reasonless creations can be devoid of allegiance to his person. A strict and orderly God, he brings a case against his own brain-children, and thus condemns himself.

Allegiance is a key issue in untying the political knot fastened in Paradise Lost. Allegiance between creator and created, between king and subject, between man and woman. Adam and Eve owe God allegiance for their lives. Genesis doesn’t address this; the idea is implicit in the text. In Genesis, we are led to believe that God wished for his creations to be faithful and obedient in accordance with his wishes. Milton, in personifying God and the first human beings, takes this concept one step further. In bringing God down to man through the vehicle of the epic poem, Milton attributes to God the capacity for reason. God does not act arbitrarily: each action is planned with a specific end in mind.

Loyalty is important because it can be used, in the field of reason, to prove innocence. Innocent beings have no understanding of inferiority, power, or debt; and therefore no grasp of even the necessity for loyalty. Milton’s God is a God of reason – but his creations, Milton asserts, were wholly innocent. The question, then, that Genesis poses and Milton a...

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... New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Crossman, Robert. Reading Paradise Lost. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

This book is the experience of reading Paradise Lost as Robert Crossman reads it. It was helpful in that it offered a clear interpretation of the events and passages in the book.

Crump, Galbraith M. Approaches to Teaching Milton's Paradise Lost. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1986.

This book was meant as a guide for teachers trying to teach Paradise Lost, but in doing so contained some interesting ideas on the work and its purpose.

Patrides, C.A. Milton's Epic Poetry. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967.

This book is a collection of essays concerning Milton's Paradise Lost. The reading of it helped to expand my understanding of the scope of the book, and it also helped to thoroughly overwhelm me.
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