[Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to William Moeck)

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Tue Sep 8 00:10:52 EDT 2009

Thanks much for your responses, Louis.  I'll try to do them some justice.

> 1)  I don't see why a willingness or a zealous desire to be tested has to be
> sinful.  She's not seeking the object of the temptation--she's not
> interested in hanging around the fruit and sniffing it, for example, to see
> if it will make her want to bite.  She's willing to expose herself alone to
> the possibility that Satan will try her.  This is because the desire to work
> alone is good and because there is no way in the terms of the poem that
> trial can be either bad or avoided.

If we distinguish between "testing" as a "test of strength," and
"temptation" as a "provoking of desire to do wrong," then a desire to
be tested is not sin.  But from the speeches, I don't think Milton
distinguishes between the words.  As another listmember pointed out,
there are good and bad senses of these words.  I don't know that the
good sense of "test" can ever be applied to a situation in which one
is "tempted."  It is never moral to pursue temptation.

> 2)  I think that you're right that the passages you quote do not clearly
> indicate that at the end she's going because she is actively seeking her
> trial.  But in the course of the dialogue she gives more than one reason for
> why she wants to go, why it's good to do so and to want to do so.

Don't you think that Eve's central argument is that we can trust
ourselves to be alone because we have been created by God, and that we
can't live our lives in fear of evil?  The choices here are between
courage and fear.

I think another listmember reminded us that the tree itself is always
there.  Its existence makes sin possible, but note that it exists only
as an external possibility, and one that can only be realized by a
deliberate act.  The tree itself is good and created by God, just
forbidden to Adam and Eve.  I don't recall offhand how this detail
finds its way into PL, but we should remember that the tree of life
stood next to the forbidden tree in the middle of the Garden.  Adam
and Eve's choice was between life and knowledge of good and evil, and
we have no reason to believe they would have made the wrong choice
except for the activity of an external agent who is already fallen.
That motives to sin remain exterior to Adam and Eve is part of the
poem's apology.

Jim R

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