Compare Books 1 and 9 of Milton's Paradise Lost.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Book 1 and Book 9 of Milton’s Paradise Lost offer interesting grounds for comparison and contrast. Some ways in which the two books both resemble and differ from one another include the following:

  • Both books begin with invocations (1.1-26; 3.1-55).
  • Both books present the consequences of sin: Book 1 presents the consequences of Satan’s sin; Book 9 presents the results of the sin of Adam and Eve.
  • Both books present extended depictions of Satan. In Book 1 we see Satan manipulating the other fallen angels; in Book 9 we see him deceiving and manipulating Eve.
  • Whereas Book 1 depicts Satan after he has already fallen, Book 9 depicts Adam and Eve – at least initially – in their “prelapsarian” (or “pre-fallen”) conditions. We thus are shown how much (and precisely what) they lose.
  • Book 9 is in some ways the necessary consequence of Book 1. In Book 1, Milton had promised to show how and why Adam and Eve fell ["Who first seduced them to that foul revolt? / Th' infernal Serpent . . ." (1.34-35)], and in Book 9 he does just that. In some ways, Book 9 is the crucial book of the entire poem, partly because it functions as a kind of microcosm of the poem as a whole and partly because it depicts the most important event in human history before Christ’s crucifixion.
  • In Book 1, we see the fallen angels enduring the fate they deserve; in Book 9, we see Adam and Eve suffering a fate they could very easily have avoided.
  • Book 1 shows us the fallen angels doing their best to adapt to their new, hellish conditions; Book 9 shows us Adam and Eve sacrificing a paradise they could easily have retained, as when Milton writes,

    "She gave him of that fair enticing fruit
    With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat
    Against his better knowledge, not deceived. (9.996-98)."

For an excellent brief overview of the poem, please see C. S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).

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