All great works of literature have at their center a strong conflict. After all, if there was no conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist then there would be little of interest to any work. Not all conflict, however, is external. That is, while the protagonist and the antagonist may be in conflict there are also a number of internalized conflicts that the characters possess as well. Often, it is this internal conflict that drives the external conflict. Such is the case with the fourth and fifth books of John Milton's PARADISE LOST as there are a number of internal conflicts that are born of senses of jealousy and inferiority.
When we first look at Book 4 of PARADISE LOST we are introduced to the pitiful figure of Satan. Please note, the word pitiful is not used here flippantly. The character truly appears pathetic. Part of this would be the result of Satan essentially being a stranger in a strange land who no longer feels welcome in heaven as he is cast out. This builds into a feeling resentment, anger and jealously towards the Earth in its paradise form. Satan then becomes driven to travel to paradise and disrupt things. It would seem almost as if Satan is a spoiled child who would rather destroy a toy rather than let anyone else play with it.
Satan then re-directs his internal conflicts towards the inhabitants of paradise with Eve being his intended prey. If Satan can destroy Eve he can destroy paradise. Of course, if Eve were strong she would be able to fend off his tempting but she is not. This is because she is also internally conflicted.
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In Book Five, the Angel Gabriel informs Adam that there is the possibility that they may evolve to a higher power. But, in order to do so they must remain loyal to God. On the surface, this would seem like a rather simple task. Simply follow orders and all will be well. Of course, human beings have a tendency to be their own worst enemies and this was not lost upon Adam or Eve. In this case, it was Eve who falters first.
Part of the reason for this is that Eve also possesses a certain sense of conflict not unlike Satan. (This is foreshadowed in the dream sequence which we will soon discuss) Satan as a fallen angel feels a certain sense of inferiority towards the angels that are still in the good graces of God. In a similar vein, Eve feels equally conflicted since she feels inferior to Adam. After all, the angel discusses how she and Adam can obtain perfection but he only discusses this with Adam. As such, there is a certain "snub" Eve feels and this is probably what led to her being more susceptible to the taunts of Satan.
In a way, Eve's eventually jealously is similar to Satan. Since the root of Satan's rebuke of God can be traced to his jealously towards son it would not be out of the question that Eve would also feel a similar jealously. Her jealousy, however, is directed towards Adam who is seemingly favored by God and the heavens. Much like with Satan, this jealously would prove to be her undoing.
This does not occur in the fourth of fifth chapter but it is foreshadowed by a sequence where God acknowledges that his creations – the humans – will eventually fall
and falter. It would seem that God understands such feelings are human nature and that they can not be circumvented no matter what. Perhaps, God understands that all creatures in heaven and earth are flawed and these flaws lead to the weak emotions of jealously, pride and envy that are their undoing.
It is also foreshadowed in the early part of Book Five, Eve has a dream that foreshadows her fall. Adam warns her to not pay mind to thoughts of feeding from the Tree of Knowledge. However, we can see how the seed of such malfeasance is planted. But, there is a clear understanding here that inferiority exists. In other words, since there is a Tree of Knowledge there must obviously be things that Adam and Eve do not know. In other words, they are obviously imperfect beings that are in the shadow of God and the angels. Again, this creates the seeds of jealousy that will later manifest into resentment and defiance.
Remember, PARADISE LOST is not so much about physically being cast out of paradise as much as it is about the sad realization that all beings are flawed. Among these major flaws are notions that an individual will suffer from envy and jealously; emotions which can lead to great undoing if not properly placed in check. Sadly, the seeds of jealousy in these two chapters of PARADISE LOST grow until they ultimately deliver what the title of the work would suggest – an outright loss of salvation and the birth of the desire to regain it. This, of course, is another tale for another time.
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