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Eve's Dreams In Paradise Lost Essay

2393 words - 10 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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...

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