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Sufficient to have stood: Temptation in Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Perelandra

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  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding the mechanics of temptation
  3. The demonic suggestion of entitlement
  4. Identifying the moment of Jesus's temptation
  5. Competition in Eve's fall
  6. The device of exploiting just hierarchy against Jesus Christ
  7. The temptations of Eve and the Green Lady
  8. The divine intervention
  9. The salvation of Perelandra
  10. Conclusion
  11. Works cited

Original sin has a curious, irresolute connection to human freedom. God?s fundamental gifts to His children?reason, imagination, free will?are the very things that give men the desire to sin as well as the ability to resist. This combination makes the Fall of Man a paradoxical event, one that seems inevitable at the same time it appears avoidable. We were not created perfect; rather, we were created temptable, and with vivid imaginations. As shown in John Milton?s Paradise Lost, such a condition of independence makes for a rich road between temptation and the outcome, which can only be one of two opposites: standing or falling. Adam and Eve find themselves tempted, and, equipped only with innocence, they fall. But alternate possibilities weave ephemerally throughout the rest of Milton?s epic, possibilities of goodness and lasting purity that accentuate the sad precariousness of Eve?s fall. In hinting at these auxiliary stories, Milton subtly reminds us that steadfastness in the face of evil was always attainable, and in Paradise Regained, he shows Jesus divinely embodying this capability.

[...] And, as these changes are few in number, it is Lewis' way of reminding us of the positive possibilities of human free will that exist alongside the negative. Goodness, he is saying, is not incompatible with imperfection. Even in Paradise Lost, where all readers know the end of the story, there is a hint of this openness. The virtue that suffuses the initial descriptions of Adam and Eve seems almost good enough to last, as Milton describes them by saying their looks divine/ The image of their glorious Maker shone/ Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure? (PL IV.291-3). [...]

[...] Pure goodness in God's children will be possible yet; Jesus incarnate will regain Paradise in a lonely Middle East desert, and the Green Lady will prove it is possible to be imperfect and unfallen, a second Eve in her new world. First in this analysis, it is necessary to understand the mechanics of temptation. All three scenes of temptation take place as dialogues, Satan speaking to Jesus and Eve, an unnamed demon speaking to the Green Lady through Weston. In this the authors are able to bring life to the psychology of the progressing battle between duty and desire, two presences that exist in different degrees in all three characters (Jesus is all duty and little desire, in contrast to the desires of the Green Lady and the even greater desires of Eve). [...]

[...] This new Paradise is not something that should be destroyed in hopes of a more complex salvation; perhaps the Fall was fortunate in the end, but to believe it to be better than Paradise would be foolish and blind. Grace and goodness will surely still exist for the Green Lady and the King. They do not need to sin to bring God's power into being, to follow the pattern of evil and redemption laid out in Paradise Lost and Regained. [...]

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