[Milton-L] "Oh we can't eat apples"

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Thu Apr 3 23:49:26 EDT 2014

Just in case of interest, here's the abstract to my paper, "Forbidden Fruit
as Impedimental Peach: A Scholarly 'Pesher' on *Paradise** Lost* 9.850-852,"
published in 2008:

This paper builds upon recent scholarship by Robert Appelbaum, who has
argued that John Milton depicted the forbidden fruit not as an apple, in
our contemporary sense of the term, but as a peach instead, based upon the
description of the fruit as "downy," among other characteristics. I find
Appelbaum's interpretation persuasive, but what remains not entirely clear
in Appelbaum's account is Milton's motive for choosing the peach. The
implication seems to be that the peach's technical name, *Malum
persicum*-- or "Persian apple" -- enabled Milton to associate the
peach with
paradise, supposedly located in Persia. The commonly described 'nectarous,'
'ambrosial' *qualities* of peaches would also perhaps accord better with
the 'divine' forbidden fruit as a peach rather than as an apple. Milton,
however, might have found additional motivation. As this paper shows, the
poet could have been working with a couple of wordplays: (1) from the
French pun on *pêche* (peach) and *péché* (sin) *across* the language
barrier and (2) from peach (*Malum persicum*) and peach/appeach (accuse)
*within* the English language. The argument relies upon circumstantial
evidence and layers of interpretation to make its case. For instance,
following their sin in eating the peach, Eve and Adam fall into mutual
accusations in the postlapsarian portion of Book 9, in which they
effectively "appeach," or "peach" (aphetic form of "appeach"), one another.
Adam even 'appeaches' Eve rather formally before the divine judge early in
Book 10 of *Paradise Lost*, and he does so in a way that Milton advises
against in his *Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce*, in which he argues
that one should deal privately with an adulterous wife rather than publicly
*appeaching* her as an unfaithful woman. The argument is somewhat
speculative, but it is justified, given Appelbaum's persuasive argument
that the "downy" fruit is a peach, and it adds a potentially significant
depth of meaning to how we interpret Milton's understanding of the
forbidden fruit that brought evil into the world.

Jeffery Hodges

Ewha Womans University
Seoul, South Korea

Novella: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E18KW0K (*The Bottomless Bottle of

 (*The Bottomless Bottle of Beer*)

Blog: http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ (*Gypsy Scholar*)

Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in the Gospel of John and Gnostic

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Home Address:

Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
Gunyoung Apt. 102-204
Sangbong-dong 1
Seoul 131-771
South Korea

On Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 8:00 AM, Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM <
cbartonphd1 at verizon.net> wrote:

>  Cogitate away, Greg. I like where this is going.
>  *From:* Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
> *Sent:* Thursday, April 03, 2014 6:51 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] "Oh we can't eat apples"
> First of all, I thank Michael and Carol.  By giving some grounds for
> believing that a kind of fruit grows on the interdicted tree that only
> grows there, you make me think I'm at least not idiotic or crazy for having
> assumed what I have about "the fruit of that forbidden tree" for all these
> years.
> I'm now undecided on the matter, and if you all don't mind my using you as
> a sounding board, I'll share for your comment some of the passages that are
> occurring to me, thick and fast, as bearing on the matter.
> First, I have to say I actually like the idea of God's only prohibiting
> one tree, and not one variety of fruit.  It does two things.  First, it
> makes the prohibition all that much more arbitrary, and on this matter, the
> maximum degree of arbitrariness seems preferable.  Second, it means that
> Adam and Eve are denied nothing substantial at all.  They can still eat
> apples, just not apples from one particular tree.  Maximally loving God
> with a maximally arbitrary prohibition.  Fits with two things I otherwise
> tend to believe Milton tries to portray in the epic.
> (By the way, I can imagine the forbidden tree being identifiable, just by
> its position in the Garden, even if it shares a fruit with other trees.)
> The passages:  At 8.320, God gives Adam Paradise, which includes the
> freedom "of the Fruit to eat"; then he prohibits one Tree.  The first
> sounds like a blanket gift of *all* the fruits in Eden.  The ruling out
> of one *tree* here doesn't seem to bear back on the fruits in any way.
>  From this it seems all that is prohibited is not a variety of fruit, but
> just the pieces of fruit growing on one particular tree.
> By contrast, though, when Adam discusses the prohibition with Eve he urges
> her not to think the prohibition hard since they enjoy "free leave so large
> to all things else" (4.434).  That "else" makes me think some tangible
> "thing" is excluded by the proposition.  Apples-from-one-particular-tree
> don't seem as deserving of the word "thing" as one-whole-variety-of-fruit
> does.
> I'll review Lewis and Evans, at your prompting, John.
> By the way, in the discussion from which this is a tangent, I think I can
> still argue that both of Satan's "apples" *can* be OED def 2: "fruits,"
> and perhaps even that his first use of the term *must* be.  Because as
> soon as he says "apples," Eve could at least interrupt and say "which
> apples? 'cause there's some of those we're not supposed to eat"; you'd
> think if Eve knew of the fruit on the prohibited tree as an "apple," she'd
> have perked up a bit more when Satan used the term.
> Furiously cogitating,
> Greg Machacek
> Professor of English
> Marist College
> -----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> From: "Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM"
> Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> Date: 04/03/2014 05:52PM
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "Oh we can't eat apples"
> John, with the greatest respect (and I know you know I mean that
> sincerely), I don't think you can use the argument about how many species
> of everything else there were in Eden; it's immaterial. Adam and Eve had to
> know which (specific) tree to avoid, whether God hung up signs reading
> "FORBIDDEN" in neon lights on it, or made it one of a kind. As I said
> previously, God (at least not Milton's God) doesn't "do" entrapment. There
> has to be no question in Eve's mind that this-is-the-tree-whose-fruit-is-
> *verboten* for her to fall by her own choice; if she doesn't know that
> that's the one, and the only one, that she's been told not to touch, her
> credulousness when the serpent tells her of its wondrous powers is
> plausible--and without sin. (So--there's a new species she hasn't tasted
> yet, and it's got these great powers! What fun! And what's the harm in
> trying it?)
> There are lots of green plants on the planet, and lots of varieties of
> marijuana--but your kids know the difference between that and oregano and
> basil and mint, and when you say "NO POT," that's a message understood to
> mean a specific plant of a certain kind.
> But of course, they "didn't inhale."
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