Milton and the Natural World

Topics: Garden of Eden, Paradise Lost, Adam and Eve Pages: 6 (2059 words) Published: November 22, 2010
Blessed Be the Time: Changes in the Natural World as a Result of the Fall

The differences between prelapsarian and postlapsarian life as it pertains to mankind must be stark. The Fall would lose all meaning otherwise, were the consequences of the original sin to be slight. Everything that Adam and Eve had experienced must change so that they could comprehend the vastness of their transgression. This would include everything of a spiritual nature: their relationship with God, the angels, their ability to get into Heaven. However, as a fallen human, the reader might find the physical changes that Adam, Eve, and the world around them undergo as a result of the Fall to be very compelling. As someone who has never and can never experience prelapsarian life, the reader has a natural curiosity towards these changes to the physical world. How much did mankind lose as a result of Adam's and Eve's actions? In Paradise Lost, John Milton depicts the vast changes in the natural world that result from the Fall of mankind, showing the reader how much man lost that fateful day as well as what potentially redeeming characteristics nature was given in its postlapsarian state.

Prelapsarian life for Adam and Eve was undemanding yet fulfilling. Eden is exactly what we'd expect paradise to look like; in fact, it is the foundation for all of mankind's thought of what a perfect world would consist. The two towering trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, frame the scene. A bubbling brook flows through, and all the types animals in the world saunter around with nary a carnivorous thought. Their life is not idle, but neither is their labor onerous; they spend their days concerned with “sweet gard'ning labor” which made “ease/More easy” (IV.328-330) and gave them an appetite. They fed that appetite with delicious fruits from their garden, which they shared with visiting angels. Labor, in fact, is a gift from God to Man, in that it “declares his dignity/And the regard of Heav'n on all his ways/While other animals unactive range/And of their doings God takes no account.” (IV.619-622) Labor is not burdensome but instead is an instance of Man's greater dignity than that of the animals. Prelapsarian life is idyllic and Adam and Eve seem to be able to live their lives without a care in the world.

After the Fall, however, Adam and Eve are told that their life will be altogether different. Where before their easy labors were a gift from God, signifying Man's favored place in the world, labor in a postlapsarian world will be taxing and consume most of Man's days. The garden of Eden, where farming was easy and food plentiful, is replaced by a more difficult situation as described by God:

Cursed is the ground for thy sake, thou in sorrow
Shall eat thereof all the days of thy life.
Thorns also and thistles it shall bring thee forth
Unbid and thou shalt eat th' herb of the field.
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread
Till thou return unto the ground.(X.201-206)

No longer will Eve be able to make easy fruit salad for Adam and the angels to enjoy. Instead, Adam will toil in thankless soil, hoping to grow enough wheat for sustenance. The botanist's dream of Eden is instead replaced by an unforgiving world where the ability to feed oneself is hampered by thorns and thistles and the hard labor necessary to make anything grow. Additionally, God complicates Man's life further by tilting the earth's axis, creating the seasons and complicating Man's quest for survival with extremes in weather and temperature. In order to simply survive, Man will now have to toil all day; quite a change from the perfection found in Eden.

In the pre- and postlapsarian world, Man does not live alone, and one other significant change in the natural world after the Fall is Man's relationship with the animals that also populate the world. Prior to Eve's transgression, Man shares a special relationship with...
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