Study Guide

Paradise Lost Sin

By John Milton

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Book 1

"Farewell happy fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: hail horrors, hail
Infernal world" (1.249-51).

As a punishment for his sin, Satan must exchange the "happy fields" of Heaven for the "horrors" of Hell. As a result of their sins, both Adam and Eve and Satan must say "farewell" to their respective paradises, as if some notion of exile from one's "home" were intimately bound up with the idea of sin. Note also the alliteration in this line ("h" and "f" sounds), a sonorous effect that contrasts with the bleakness of the picture.

Book 2

"a Goddess armed
Out of thy head I sprung! Amazement seized
All the' Host of Heav'n. Back they recoiled afraid
At first and called me Sin, and for a sign
Portentous held me" (2.757-61).

What's a poem without a character named Sin? Sin springs out of Satan's head – a strange birth indeed. Milton alludes here to a mythological story where Athena (ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, victory, and other things) sprung from Zeus' head. Who better than Satan to give birth to something as far from wisdom as sin? The passage says as much about Sin as it does about Satan and about Milton's relationship to ancient myth.

Book 6

"Apostate, still thou err'st, nor end wilt find
Of erring, from the path of truth remote!" (6.172-3)

The word "err" is used twice in this passage. "Err" and its cognates were once associated with wandering or going astray, a notion emphasized here in the idea of being "remote" from the "path" (i.e., the road, the path of uprightness, etc.). Satan's, Adam's, and Eve's falls all involve notions of error and wandering from the right path.

Book 9

"Daughter of God and Man, immortal Eve,
For such thou art, from sin and blame entire" (9.291-2)

Naïve readers often suggest that Eve was tainted from the get go, but Adam reminds us, yet again, that she is "entire[ly]" free "from sin and blame." Just because Eve goes off to garden by herself does not automatically make her a sinner. This passage is important alongside God's remarks about predestination, etc. as it emphasizes the ideas of innocence and purity, which seem to be related to all that stuff about freewill.

"Greedily she engorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death. Satiate at length
And heightened as with wine" (9.791-4)

Milton goes to great lengths to display the intemperance associated with Eve's sin. Notice how ravenously she eats: "greedily," "engorged without restraint," and "heightened as with wine." The irony, of course, is that Eve is "eating death" (how does one do that?), but she doesn't know it, and continues to eat voraciously.

Book 10

"for now were all transformed
Alike, to serpents all as accessories
To his bold riot" (10.519-21)

Satan and his legions are turned into serpents after the Fall as a result of their role in it. Serpents can't walk upright like angels or humans; in Paradise Lost, the ability to stand "erect," or to stand at all, is a mark of either distinction or proximity to God. This is a fitting punishment, for it further removes the fallen angels from the realm of humans, angels, etc.

"Within the gates of Hell sate Sin and Death,
In counterview, within the gates that now
Stood open wide" (10.230-2)

After the Fall, Sin and Death build a bridge to earth; Adam and Eve have left the earth "open wide" for Sin and Death. In other words, while the characters Sin and Death can now make their way towards earth, the point is sin and death more generally have now become a part of the (fallen) world.

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