Theme Of Freedom In Paradise Lost By John Milton

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In Paradise Lost, arguably a didactic epic with its narrative fairly fact based with it being written in iambic pentameter, Milton draws upon classical Christian arguments to assist his argument that the people have the right and duty to rise up in rebellion and overthrow a tyrant. Milton primarily addresses an idea that Christian theologians continue to debate: what freedom means in accordance with God’s divine framework. To depict the purpose of the epic to make his readers better Christians Milton sets up a struggle between two views of freedom. Between these visions of freedom articulated in Book 9 Eve’s definition of freedom as choice and Adam’s as obedience Milton portrays Adam’s definition as the truer model because it reflects both Milton’s vision of human freedom as well the structural freedom of Paradise Lost itself.

For Milton, license fits these definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary: “Excessive liberty; abuse of freedom; disregard of law or propriety,” and “Licentiousness, libertinism.” Eve is lured by Satan because he uses reasoning to convince her to eat from the Forbidden Tree (Tree of Knowledge) by saying, “ye shall not die: How should ye? By the fruit? It gives you life To Knowledge”.

Adam eats the fruit because of his attachment to Eve and his weakness towards her for we see that he says, “How can I live without thee, how forgo . Thy sweet converse and love so dearly joined . To live again in these wild woods forlorn?”. Hence, Adam willfully commits sin and eats the fruit only to be with Eve and he is already fully aware of the sin he is committing. This idea is supported by what Northrop Frye says, When Adam eats the forbidden fruit, then, is not an act, But the surrendering of the power to act. Man is free To lose his freedom, and there, obviously, his freedom stops.

Paradise Lost presents the argument that mankind is created as free formed and ordained as such by God an eternal, unchangeable part of the nature of mankind. It is the quality of freedom that gives meaning to any action or sentiment such as obedience, worship, or love. What Milton wants his readers to understand, however, is that although there are various kinds of personal and political freedoms, true freedom is found only when a man acts reasonably and does what God demands, for man is truly free only when he is within the order that God has created for him. In other words, by following what reason knows to be right, man becomes free from the forces of his own nature, from the “lusts”, “dissensions”, “jealousies”, and “superstitions” that enslave him. Ultimately, this leaves man free to choose so that he may find that true freedom is obedience, and thus know and appreciate freedom for what it really is.


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