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Eve's Dreams in Paradise Lost

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The Significance of Eve’s Dreams in Paradise Lost

Some of the most telling aspects of John Milton’s Paradise Lost are in the few instances in which the reader is privy to the contents of Adam and Eve’s dreams, and these instances contribute significantly to the outcome and overall meaning of the poem. Milton’s use of dreams in Paradise Lost serves several distinct purposes. These passages allow us to glean insight to the inner workings of both Adam and Eve’s subconscious, as well as to God’s respective plans for them. Adam and Eve’s dreams illustrate the differences inherent within them and their very different relationships with God. Eve’s dreams are particularly dramatic in their substance, and in their drastic contrast before and after the fall. I propose that Milton’s use of dreams in Paradise Lost demonstrates that prelapsarian Eve could never have truly comprehended good and evil. All of Adam’s dreams in the poem are divinely inspired, while Eve’s first dream is induced by Satan, and her final, postlapsarian dream a vision from God that shows her that she will go on to bear the “promised seed” (12.623) that will deliver salvation. This essay will examine the different ways in which Adam and Eve receive information and how it affects their understanding and, consequently, their actions.
We are first introduced to Adam and Eve as Satan is observing them in the Garden of Eden, acting as the first anthropologist in order to ascertain how to bring about their demise. Satan notes first that Adam and Eve appear to preside over all in the Garden, and second that there are clear distinctions between the two which render them “not equal, as their sex not equal seemed” (4.296). Their separate purposes are also immediately apparent at line 297 “For contemplation he and valor formed, / For softness she and sweet attractive Grace, / He for God only, she for God in him”. It is clear that Eve worships and is subject to Adam, and here Satan also learns of Eve’s vanity and Adam’s fear of death. Based on the information he gathers, Satan devises his plan to bring about Adam and Eve’s ruin. Under the guise of a toad, he murmurs into Eve’s ear as she sleeps and implants thoughts of sin in her mind.
In Book V, Eve discloses to Adam the dream resulting from Satan’s efforts, and I believe this to be one of the most pivotal points of the poem. She describes how an angel-like being spoke to her, reflecting a conversation she had with Adam the night before in which he responded to Eve’s query as to why the stars shine at night. According to Adam, the stars are like sentinels that keep the night from being utterly dark, and also exist for the angels to enjoy God’s beauty when the sun has set. In Eve’s dream, the mysterious creature that beckons her gives an alternate explanation. “Heav’n wakes with all his eyes, / Whom to behold but thee, nature’s desire, / In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment / Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze.” (5.44-47). Satan knew that these lines would flatter Eve’s vanity, but the sexual overtones intimate a perception of her beauty that is very different from what God intended. Up to this point, Eve has only known Adam’s conjugal love. This idea of lust that Satan conjures is the first spot of sin that Eve encounters, and although she has not yet sinned, this alters Eve previously pure state. When Eve watches the being in her dream taste the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge she is shocked and horrified. This speaks for Eve’s innocence, but she then proceeds to also taste the fruit. She flies with the being above the clouds and looks down on the earth, exalted. She is much relieved to awaken and to find it all a dream.
Upon hearing of Eve’s vision, Adam is highly troubled. However, after mulling things over, he is somewhat dismissive as to what it may portend. Although it clearly leaves him with an uneasy feeling, he assures Eve that is simply the events of the previous day playing out in her mind and taking on new forms. At lines 117-21 he is tragically mistaken when he says that “Evil into the mind of god or man / May come or go, so unapproved, and leave / No spot of blame behind: Which gives me hope / That what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream, / Waking thou never wilt consent to do”. While Eve certainly can’t be blamed for Satan’s infiltration of her subconscious, it does serve to alter her state of mind. Imagining that she has eaten the forbidden fruit and suffering no ill effects (to the contrary, being exalted high above the earth), Eve, whether she realizes it or not, becomes more comfortable with the idea of sin in a way that Adam does not.
While it may be argued that if Eve was truly pure, she would have resisted sin regardless of any circumstances, it is only natural that she would not be highly distrustful of what she perceives to be an angel in a dream. While God has a direct relationship with Adam, He never speaks to Eve until after the fall. When God has his angels deliver messages to Adam for him, Eve is never present when vital information is imparted. Adam relates all knowledge secondarily to Eve, thus everything she learns of is filtered. Adam, being untainted by thoughts of sin, can not see the dream as evil and therefore tells Eve not to worry about it. As Eve is subject to Adam, it only follows that she will agree with him and put the dream behind her, rather than taking it as a lesson of how easy it is to err and how it is most wise to stay on guard. When God sends Raphael to deliver this very message to Adam, he is reminded again of his free will and also told of his source of knowledge as opposed to that of the angels. As Raphael states “ . . . the soul / Reason receives, and reason is her being, / Discursive, or intuitive; discourse / Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours, / Differing but in degree, of kind the same.” (5.486-90). Here Raphael explains that Adam’s reason is derived through discourse, whereas the angels intuitively know reason. Furthermore, there is a distinction to be made between Adam’s version of rational discourse and Eve’s. While Adam actively questions and speaks with the angels, Eve passively accepts what Adam tells her. She does not possess the necessary faculties to dispute what someone tells her to be true.
What makes this dream of Eve’s all the more familiar is that it is a reflection of her experience in the Garden up to this point. She knows very little of herself and this world she has come into. She is hungry for wisdom, this elusive notion that she only knows is desirable. She doesn’t really know what death is, and she wonders what it is about the Tree of Knowledge that has caused God to restrict them from using it. The dream also speaks to her greatest weakness, her vanity, something that Eve has never before confronted. When Eve is first created and Adam views her for the first time he is enamored by her beauty: “Here passion first I felt, / Commotion strange, in all enjoyments else / Superior and unmoved, here only weak / Against the charm of beauty’s powerful glance.” (8.530-33). When Satan tempts Eve in the Garden, when he first sees her he is almost deterred from his dastardly plan because her beauty is so alarming: “That space the evil one abstracted stood / From his own evil, and for the time remained / Stupidly good, of enmity disarmed, / Of guile, of hate, of envy, of revenge” (9.463-66). Both Adam and Satan can’t help but to be hypnotized by Eve’s beauty, but when Eve admires her own appearance she is at fault, even though it is her instinctive reaction. She must learn, through experience and through increased self-awareness, that vanity is a bad thing. Adam is, in fact, so besotted with Eve’s appearance that in Book VIII, Raphael warns him not to yield to uxoriousness and to remember that he holds dominion over Eve. While Eve’s beauty results in her own weakness (vanity), it is also the source of Adam’s weakness.
When Satan convinces Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in Book IX, as in her dream he plays to her vanity and makes great attempts to flatter her. Eve does grow rather suspicious at the serpent’s effusive praise. This demonstrates that Eve, by this point, has come a long way in garnering a sense of self-awareness. However, the serpent makes several arguments that appeal greatly to Eve, all catering to her lack of direct knowledge. At lines 651-54, Eve explains of their free will “ . . . of this Tree we may not taste nor touch; / God so commanded, and left that command / Sole daughter of his voice; the rest, we live / Law to ourselves, our reason is our law.” However, it becomes clear that Eve does not really have a grasp on what free will means. When Satan as the serpent questions how they can freely take from something that is controlled by the gods, Eve has no explanation but to concede “What fear I then, rather what know to fear / Under this ignorance of good and evil, / Of God or death, of law or penalty?” (9.773-75). Unlike Adam, Eve doesn’t know God, thereby making his ordinance all the more abstract.
When Eve tells Adam what she has done, he understands instantly that it was gravely wrong. His love and commitment for Eve are what cause him to also eat the fruit and fall with her, but doing so sends him into a state of absolute despair. When confronted by God, he gives a verbose explanation laying blame on Eve for making him eat from the Tree and also on God for giving Adam a flawed “perfect gift” (10.138). Eve on the other hand, when directly addressed by God for the first time, gives a short and straightforward response “The Serpent me beguiled and I did eat” (10.162). In retribution, God sentences Eve to bear offspring brought “in sorrow forth” (10.195) and to be more heavily subjected to her husband’s authority. God castigates Adam for obeying his wife in opposition to God’s command and as consequence “shalt to dust return” (10.208).
When they pass the following night together in Eden, Adam is bitterly critical of Eve, calling her a serpent (10.867) and “ . . . all but a rib / Crooked by nature” (10.884). However, Eve’s response to Adam’s insults is quite remarkable. Eve shows true contrition for her actions before Adam is penitent. She agonizes over offending not only God, but Adam as well, and takes full accountability for her error. All ignorance of good and evil has been removed and Eve knows that she wants to worship Adam and God. It was necessary for Eve to break God’s command in order to know reason.
In Book XI, the angel Michael shows Adams everything that will happen to humanity up to the Flood and explains at length what is to come. When Adam returns to Eden in Book XII, Michael informs Adam of Eve that he “ . . . with gentle dreams have calmed / Portending good, and all her spirits composed / To meek submission” (12.595-97). When Adam rouses Eve from her sleep, “with words not sad she him received” (12.609) and told him of her prophetic dream in which “This further consolation yet secure / I carry hence; though all by me is lost, / Such favor I unworthy am vouchsafed, / By me the promised seed shall all restore.” (12.620-23). While Adam had an interactive educational experience with Michael that allayed his fears, Eve was visited by God in a dream to inculcate her with a very simple, yet extremely meaningful message. Unlike Adam, Eve never experienced a divine dream before the fall, but postlapsarian Eve possesses virtue that would have been impossible to attain without firsthand knowledge of good and evil. After the fall, Eve doesn’t need Adam to immediately tell her everything he has learned because she is content with her simplified, yet divine message. To receive information in her unconscious state is consistent with Eve’s typical filtered knowledge, but Eve has no doubt that it is God who is speaking to her. Eve’s betrayal and her subsequent contrition opened up a line of communication with God that previously she did not have, and she was satisfied to not know more than what he told her.
In observing the stark contrast between Eve’s first dream in Book V and her last in Book VII, and the feelings associated with them, it is apparent that after the fall there is a positive change in Eve’s character. Curious, confused, and susceptible to Satan’s trickery, it was only a matter of time before Eve yielded to temptation. Postlapsarian Eve, however, has a knowledge that comes through true understanding and a once vain Eve is made a “much-humbled Eve” (11.181). Adam has lost universal reason, and as such Eve must submit to a lesser version of the husband she once had, but it brings Adam and Eve closer in stature and therefore, perhaps, more equal. In Book III God tells us of Adam that He “ . . . made him just and right, / Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.” (98-99). Eve, however, was destined to fall and Adam knowingly chose to suffer with her. Despite the tragedy of the fall, Eve gains a deeper spiritual understanding and is comforted in her final dream knowing that she will go on to be the mother of Jesus, the savior of humanity.…...

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...Part I of Decision in Paradise addressed the issues encountered in the research pertaining to increasing KMAAD’s presence on the Island of Kava. We will discuss the issues, discovered and reported, in part I and part II using the financial decision technique. Expanding our presence on KAVA, will enable KMAAD to increase the exporting of commodities and make a positive impact in the lives of the local populace. Accomplishing this will increase KMAAD’s revenue and ensure a steady supply of commodities needed to meet our customers demand. Our first recommendation is to hire a local for the position of receptionist. The receptionist will be responsible for the cleaning and organizing the office and managing our contacts with local officials. The knowledge of local customs and procedures for working with the government of Kava and the citizens will be invaluable in increasing our presence. The salary will be offset by allowing company officials the time to meet with local contacts and still have the office open. Natural disasters have created a mess on the island. Tourism and exports are down. Our first recommendation is to work with the government of Kava to apply for a HUD section 108 loan. The proceeds of this loan, at greatly reduced interest rates, will accomplish improving the transportation infrastructure and give the residents pride in their community. Tourism will increase with a clean and safe destination. Without adequate infrastructure the suppliers will have a......

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