Thesis: Although Adam and Eve are the first of the human race, it is inaccurate to consider them as symbolic representations of the race as a whole by the way they think, feel, and behave in Milton's Paradise Lost.
Milton's beliefs in the acts of the individual and the timing of knowledge.
- Not all men are condemned to the fall/fate. Each has an individual choice and temptation that is separate from Adam's. Example- Abdiel's solitary return to the side of God.
- Areopagitica- God has endowed each of his children with reason and conscience and the ability to act for himself.
- Adam's sin was to seek knowledge before it was allotted him, but Milton sees knowledge as the redeeming power-- he writes in Of Education: "The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright."
- There are other members of the human race who are described as successfully keeping God's commandments, i.e. Enoch, Noah, Abraham in Books XI and XII.
- There are also members who are more rebellious than Adam during the Fall, such as Cain, whom Adam sees in Book XI.
- Therefore, the scope of humanity's potential for righteousness and wickedness is not represented by Adam and Eve's actions.
- Adam and Eve are the only members of the race to have gone from Eden to a fallen world.
- They only encounter through vision some of the great struggles of Milton's era (especially problems of politics and censorship.) In the visions Michael shows Adam, Adam feels distanced from his posterity.
- Adam and Eve can't function as paradigms of our race when they have extreme life experiences that are exclusive to only themselves.