[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Fri Jul 4 13:07:35 EDT 2008


Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)Yes: Eve's experience is almost voyeuristic, in that sense, Michael, both a preview and a premonition. In dreams, the subconscious mind might *imagine* what it's like to do something, but that's not the same as experiencing it--or dreaming about it after you've already had the experience.

An example: decades ago, I gave up smoking, which until then was a habit (addiction) I enjoyed. (That was before the Surgeon General began warning us about lung cancer.) About three months after my last cigarette, I had a vivid dream about smoking one at work--and woke up cursing myself for giving in, until I realized that it was Sunday, and I hadn't been at work the day before. I knew what it was like to smoke, though, having previously done so--so what I "imagined" in the dream was only a reprise of actual experience.

Thanks to Hollywood, there are very few things about which I could dream with no prior knowledge of what it would be like to do this or that--from blasting off into outer space to murdering someone. But Eve wasn't in that type of reality: she could imagine what it would be like to meet the Adversary (but he would look like whatever she fantasized, never having seen him in any of his forms)--she could imagine what it would be like to visit the Tree of Knowledge, pluck the Fruit, and eat it--and she could imagine some consequence called "death" about which she knew nothing more than the name. And knowing that she had violated a taboo, she could experience remorse--but only for the first time at that moment, since she has never known such a feeling prior to that time, nor had a reason to be remorseful. This may be a quibble, but I'm not sure that one can experience "guilt" over a transgression she hasn't committed--still, this is yet another reason why she should "just say no" when she's offered the same "opportunity" in reality.

Looking at it from a creative perspective, how else could Milton meet the requirements of verisimilitude? It's ludicrous to think that one day, Eve just happened upon the Tree, and thought, "Oh, what the hell--I'll try it." Milton is walking a very thin line, trying to give her reasonable motivation for an irrational act, while preserving her prelapsarian innocence. That's a hard thing for a fallen writer to do--and I don't see how we can criticize him for any flaws in his performance unless we can also point to cogent ways in which he could have made it better.

Best to all, and off to the alternative fireworks of this Independence Day--

Carol Barton
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