[Milton-L] Apple or Banana?

Hugh Richmond hmr at berkeley.edu
Tue Apr 8 20:36:09 EDT 2014

I remain bewildered by the narrow dimensions of the earlier discussions 
of the Apple and the Snake, or God's obtuseness. The basic issue surely 
is not literally which kind of fruit is involved, nor whether the ban is 
arbitrary -- but that the vividly sketched situation precipitates an 
archetype of human limitations. The deeper concern is that the access 
chosen is to the Tree of Knowledge. As with the Lady in Comus, Innocence 
learns that it cannot alone free itself from Evil, and - having 
misjudged - becomes self-aware of its own inadequacy, yet still needs a 
means of escape from crushing awareness of these limitations.

The best way the epic might be redeemed for modern readers may be not to 
tie it down to historical technicalities, but to demonstrate its 
continued intelligibility in the light of modern concerns about how to 
deal with chronic failure (as seemingly with Milton's own political 
career). With its limited individual awareness, humanity necessarily 
fails (whatever Calvin may say about that), and therefore becomes aware 
of the desperate need for transcendent relief, as offered by the Gospels 
-- a least for Milton, and a "few" modern readers. Fish may well be 
wrong and Lewis perhaps more or less right: it seems only the elect can 
fully appreciate the epic, not the uninitiated, who risk getting tangled 
up in these confusing debates about whether God is a nice guy, or Satan 
is a better human being than the Son (when all are spirits, or cosmic 
forces, or metaphysical entities, etc., certainly not men) - or even 
whether the Apple is really a Banana. With best wishes, from Hugh 
Richmond, Director: http://miltonrevealed.berkeley.edu/

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