Twilight falls on the Garden of Eden. Then darkness. Satan slips into the garden in the form of mist. He then hides himself in the snake.
While going though Eden, Satan again laments his loss of heaven when he sees how beautiful a creation paradise is. “Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils.””
Morning comes and Adam and Eve go out to tend the garden of Eden. Eve suggests they split up and divide the work to get more of it done. Adam doesn’t think this is a good idea, but relents when Eve implies that he doesn’t trust her.
Satan, of course, finds Eve alone and, for a moment overcome by her beauty, finds himself “stupidly good.”
In the form of a serpent, then, Satan flatters her, telling her how beautiful she is. Eve is amazed that the serpent knows how to speak and asks how this is possible. Satan replies that it is because he ate from a tree in the garden. He brings her to the Tree of Knowledge to show her.
Eve, at first, says she cannot eat from the tree, but Satan tells her that God doesn’t want her to eat because knowledge of good and evil will make her equal to a god.
Eve takes an apple and devours it. She then decides, because of her love, to involve Adam. They meet in front of the tree.
Adam is upset, but decides he cannot live without Eve, so he takes the apple as well. When he eats the apple, the two are seized with lust, and Adam leads Eve back to the bank where they first lay together.
They sleep and arise, “destitute and bare of all their virtue.” They realize for the first time that they are naked. Adam sews together fig leaves to cover themselves.
Adam blames Eve for their torment. Eve blames Adam for letting her work in the garden alone. Adam blames Eve for being angry about that, and they spend the afternoon blaming on another.
Milton is writing at the cusp of the Renaissance. The emerging sciences, arts, and literature point to a different sense of the individual than that of the dark ages. Milton was straddling the heavy hand of the church and religion of the Middle Ages and the humanism and individualism of the future, both in his personal philosophy and in his historical context. Milton was, in many ways, a humanist and believed in the value of human life as well as the rights and freedoms which are inherent in that life. However, Milton continually balanced this with the idea that true freedom can only be had if it is in line with the ordered, rational will of God.
Adam loves Eve and so, by joining her in eating the apple, sacrifices his own happiness for love. This, in itself is good act, motivated by love. A true humanist would say that Adam is acting freely and he has done a good thing. Milton, however, shows that even good acts are evil and corrupt if not done in line with God’s will. Adam is disobeying God and no matter what he does outside of obedience, it will be bad.
William Blake said that “Milton was of the devil’s party without knowing it.” He was referring to what we have described before, namely, the rather sympathetic nature in which Milton seems to treat Satan. Indeed, Satan’s rebelling against the all seeing tyranny of God would appear to be right in line with Milton’s own political views that tyranny was wrong. However, just as with Adam in good works done in disobedience, Satan is wrong because he is acting outside the will of God, no matter his courage, bravery, or justification in rebelling against tyranny. Despite his humanism, therefore, Milton believes that no acts can be considered good if they are against God’s law.
It is quite clear in this book that right after Adam took a bite of the apple, Adam and Eve had lustful, passionate sex. Referring back to Book IV, where it is inferred that they were having sex all along, one can see the difference in sex in pre-fall uncorrupted mankind and post-Fall irrational man. Pre-Fall Adam and Eve were guided by reason and order and so therefore all acts, even acts of love, brought him closer to God. Post-Fall Adam and Eve are using his animal appetites which brought him closer to animals than God. One can see in the language where post-Fall Adam grabs Eve’s hand and pulls her to their bed, where before it was Eve who gently took Adam’s hand.
Continuing on Milton’s use of numerology, we go a little deeper this time with the interesting fact that the pause before nature itself shudders in revulsion from Adam eating the apple occurs exactly on line 999 of Chapter IX. Line 10000 actually begins the storm. Although we may be unsure what Milton had in mind by these numbers matched with events, we can be sure that it was not incidental (and probably has something to do with numerology of ancient Mesopotamian religions).
Once again, Milton is showing the physical, macro results of a internal, micro moral decision. The earth, i.e., nature itself, shutters when Adam takes a bite of the apple. In this chapter and the next, the natural elements of earth will crumble and become corrupted in the sense in the sense that natural disasters, and violence between species, will become the norm. Earth will then become a mixture of the types of nature seen in both heaven and hell. It will, at times, be spectacularly beautiful, full of light and blooming in colors. It will also, however, have its dark times, be engulfed in floods and flames, and look more like an unordered hell.
The physical descriptions of Adam and Eve have changed as well. They no longer glow with joy, they are less angelic in their nature, and, within hours of eating the apple, they are prone to new, irrational emotions ranging from anger to deep depression. As well, they see each other differently as well. Specifically, they are more interested, and worried, about their genetalia than ever before. The reproductive organs suddenly take on a value (they are evil in that they lead to lust) which was hereto unheard of when Adam and Eve lacked knowledge.
For Milton, the interior state of the soul is displayed visibly in the physical. Sin is always visible.