[Milton-L] on not imagining in paradise lost

Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Fri Apr 4 16:11:42 EDT 2014

A little less frivolously:

I think what might be getting in our way, on the subject of the specific identity of the forbidden Fruit, is that for Milton, the poem is not about the malus--it's about "Man's First Disobedience" (emphasis on the disobedience). When we had a discussion similar to this some time ago, I made the "one Easie prohibition" analogous to a parent telling his or her 16 year-old that she was not to date a man of 25: you don't want to have to explain to her why you're commanding her not to do it, and you don't want to argue with her about whether your proscription is fair or reasonable--you just want her to trust your judgment, and your love for her, and obey.

I think it might have been Fish who argued that God's commandment was purposefully arbitrary--why this one fruit, out of all the things that grew in abundance in the Garden? Those of you who are parents know the answer to that one: "Because I said so!"  The point is that Adam and Eve had free access to anything they pleased, with that one exception--they didn't need it, they didn't have any reason (until Satan put ideas in Eve's head) to want it, and they certainly could have foregone it without disrupting their happy life in any way. What matters is not what they ate (except that it was the one thing that God asked them not to touch), but that they broke that "one Easie prohibition." If we focus on the Fruit, we can't see the forest for the tree: there are no Trees of Knowledge or Trees of Life in our fallen world, so to speculate what it looked like or what kind of fruit it bore is a foolish, idle fancy of the kind that Raphael specifically warns Adam against when he wants to know how angels have sex. Think about things that are important (how to be obedient) not things you can't possibly know, that wouldn't be useful to you even if you did find them out.

Best to all,

Carol Barton
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