Milton's Adam and Eve: Fallible Perfection

Milton's Adam and Eve: Fallible Perfection

Milton's Adam and Eve: Fallible Perfection

Milton's Adam and Eve: Fallible Perfection

Synopsis

Are the Adam and Eve of Milton's Paradise Lost (1667; 1674) fallen before the Fall? Many readers think so, finding vanity in Eve and intemperate affections in Adam long before they eat the forbidden fruit. But this scholarly study demonstrates that they possess the fallible perfection of the Reformation doctrine of Original Righteousness. Read from the perspective of Milton's theological background, Pardise Lost presents human characters who are perfect but fallible, necessarily limited but not fallen until they disobey God.

Excerpt

Many twentieth-century readers of Paradise Lost debate the problem of literary plausibility in the fall of Adam and Eve. If we cannot discern or do not find credible the motives that lead Milton's protagonists to disobey their Creator, the poem in a sense fails. On the other hand, if those motives indicate characters morally flawed from the beginning, then their Creator is to blame and Milton has failed to justify God's ways to us. It is a literary and theological problem for many readers of our century.

I first became interested in the problem during my graduate program in English at the University of California, Riverside, in the late 1960s. Subsequently, under the daunting but gracious direction of John M. Steadman, I completed a doctoral dissertation, "Fallible Perfection: The Motivation of the Fall in Reformation Theology and Paradise Lost," in 1971. Though duly indexed and preserved by University Microfilms, it has remained one of the best kept secrets in Milton scholarship.

The present book is a revised version of the dissertation. I have rewritten chapter 1 entirely, have revised the whole in an attempt to improve the style, and have tried throughout to take into account any major contribu-

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