Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Dangerous Gift of Free-Will

Since Book 9 is 25 pages long when printed out from online, I'm not going to lie that my focus drifted a little bit. However, I found the section when Adam attempts to sway Eve to abandon her efforts to find out more about the Tree of Knowledge extremely interesting. (From about line 342 to 375). We mentioned in class that Eve manipulates Reason to fulfill her purpose, and Adam recognizes this by saying "She dictate false, and misinforme the Will / To do what God expresly hath forbid" (355-356). Adam counterargues, and I feel like this next phrase is a key component that dictates the entire retelling of the Bible in Paradise Lost, and it is the fact that God gave humans free will. The quote is longer than just 2 lines so I'll space it to make it easier to read.

"...within himself/ The danger lies, yet lies within his power:/Against his will he can receave no harme./ But God left free the Will, for what obeyes Reason, is free, and Reason he made right/ But bid her well beware..." (348-353)

I think the most interesting part of this quote is the very beginning, when Adam talks about how humans are not impervious to sinning, saying that inside them there is danger, but the "power" humans have is free-will, the ability to make a choice between right and wrong.
However, since the wording is 17th-18th century old English, there could be another interpretation of "within himself/The danger lies," meaning that the power to grant free-will remains within God. "The danger lies, yet lies within his power," could also open up the controversial question that within God resides evil, for after all, he created the angel Lucifer, who fell from grace to become Satan. If anyone has an idea about whether Milton is referring to man or to God being the one who "within himself/The danger lies," that would be really helpful and much appreciated!
In conclusion, it is free-will that dictates our actions, (and the actions of Satan, Eve, and Adam,) but in using "Reason," God warns Adam and Eve to "beware." Reason is the knowledge that God gave to Adam and Eve to choose right from wrong, and "Reason he made right," (352) so God never created evil. According to Adam, God "Nothing imperfet or deficient left/ Of all that he Created, much less Man" (345-346). God gave humans the responsibility of free-will, which as we all know, when mistreated had pretty disastrous consequences for the rest of human kind.

1 comment:

  1. The way I had interpreted it is that "within himself" carries onto the next line, as in, "within himself the danger lies." When I read it like that, I get the sense that the message is that humans have the potential to sin, but the freewill/choice is what dictates whether or not one does sin. "Against his will he can receave no harme" seems to indicate to me that Adam (or God through Adam) is saying that while not immune to harm, any harm that is received is brought upon by one's own actions and choices.