Paradise Lost and the fall of man: Milton versus Genesis
Milton adapted and elaborated on the Book of Genesis to create an epic poem he titled Paradise Lost in order to better grab the readers attention. By fictionalizing the story of the fall of man it became more understanding, more believable, more emphatic, and more relatable to the reader. Often outspoken against Catholocism, Milton used his stories to promote Protestantism. His version is much longer than the Biblical version because he enhances the detail for more entertaining reading and more in depth comprehension.
"Whatever be his subject he never fails to fill the imagination. But his images and descriptions of the scenes or operations of Nature do not seem to be always copied from original form, nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy of immediate observation. He saw Nature, as Dryden expresses it, ‘through the spectacles of books’; and on most occasions calls learning to his assistance. The garden of Eden brings to his mind the vale of Enna, where Proserpine was gathering flowers. Satan makes his way through fighting elements, like Argo between the Cyanean rocks, or Ulysses between the two Sicilian whirlpools, when he shunned Charybdis ‘on the larboard.’ The mythological allusions have been justly censured, as not being always used with notice of their vanity; but they contribute variety to the narration, and produce an alternate exercise of the memory and the fancy." Samuel Johnson makes reference to how Milton takes Biblical verses and expands to make the stories more intrigueing and more simplistic for the reader.
Barbaram Lewalski acknowledges Milton's use of earlier epics and biblical allusions, to approximate divine models of heroism and power, and to convey the wonder of the Creation. She states, "It is a commonplace of criticism that the most difficult problem Milton faced in Paradise Lost involved the portrayal of God. Milton indeed undertook to “justify the ways of God to men,” but the problem for many readers—from his day to ours—has been to justify Milton's ways with God. Early to late, readers have questioned the theological appropriateness and literary success of Milton's anthropomorphic presentation of God as epic character. For Addison he is simply dull, a school divine delivering long sermons; for Shelley and Empson a cruel torturer and tyrant; for A. J. A. Waldock a divine egotist; for Douglas Bush an “almighty cat watching a human mouse.”1
Milton's intent in Paradise Lost was to "justify the ways of God to men", and to reestablish faith and loyalty with God. According to Genesis God created the world and all of it's belonging. Milton has revealed that mankind 's purpose was to develop this perfect world. Paradise Lost, unlike the Bible version employs Raphael to narrate God's creations. Raphael is a mediator between God and Adam. In the Bible, God speaks directly to Adam himself.
Analysis of how Adam and Eve were first created says the Adam was created by dust and that Eve was only a single rib taken from Adam's side. Milton expands their creation, placing them in different locations. When Adam was first created, he awoke underneath a large tree, staring directly into Heaven: "Straight toward Heav'n my wond'ring Eyes I turn'd,/ And gaz'd a while the ample Sky, till rais'd/" (Book VIII, lines 257-258.) Contrastingly, Eve awoke at the edge of a lake. She is enamored by her own beauty reflecting on the water. She is afraid of Adam's image insinuating she is attracted to the like elements and wary of opposite elements. "The scene in which Eve is tempted to prefer her self to Adam is a textual remedy for a narcissistic reading of the poem. It takes the reader with Eve through a pattern of response that is a mimetic model, both for the art of marriage and for the art of reading. Like Eve, the reader pauses to see his own reflection, but that is not the end of the interpretive process, nor of Eve's experience."