Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Adam and Humanity Pre-write

I'm still a little frustrated figuring out how to best work this argument, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. Areopagitica- God has endowed each of his children with reason and conscience and the ability to act for himself.
  3. 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."
 Adam's traits/failures are his own and separate from other men.
  1. 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.
  2. There are also members who are more rebellious than Adam during the Fall, such as Cain, whom Adam sees in Book XI.
  3. Therefore, the scope of humanity's potential for righteousness and wickedness is not represented by Adam and Eve's actions. 
Adam and Eve's experiences are exclusive and alienate them from the rest of their race.
  1. Adam and Eve are the only members of the race to have gone from Eden to a fallen world. 
  2. 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.
  3. Adam and Eve can't function as paradigms of our race when they have extreme life experiences that are exclusive to only themselves.
I'm also considering exploring Milton's portrayal of Adam and Eve more as caricatures than characters and how this further distances them from the human experience.

Thoughts? Suggestions?


  1. I really like this idea especially because in Mormon experience people are often extremely focused on how Adam and Eve typify our mortal experience. I think fully exploring Adam and Eve's direct experience with divine and not so divine beings and how that sets them apart in perspective and knowledge from most of mankind would be a very strong point in this argument.

  2. You could stress the fact that in the last couple of books in PL, Milton feels the need to expound upon human failings and triumphs by going over all of human history with Adam. We had a real good discussion in class today along those lines (in fact, it was probably you who made that point in class!). I think it supports your argument: after all, why would Milton feel the need to go over the rest of human history if the total human experience could be summed up in the Fall? You've got a real solid argument going, so good luck.

  3. LOOOOVE that you used that quote from "Of Education." It was by far the most intriguing idea in the whole essay. I have no idea how you would do this elegantly, but have you considered including the second Article of Faith? We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression. I'm reading a lot of ideas that say Adam and Eve are representative of "this" or "that" (which isn't a bad or necessarily untrue thing) but it's refreshing to see some ideas that argue against that.