Explication Essay: Paradise Lost

Paige Gardner Julia Naviaux ENG 230: 003 February 1, 2013 Explication Essay: Paradise Lost- Lines 80-134 The debate of free will versus predestination is a very common, prevalent topic in any Q&A session or even religious sermon. The controversial issue of whether God has predestined His people for salvation or if God has given people the freedom in making their independent choice to do so is a question theologians will never solve. Many church congregations have lost members due to the church’s opinion on this topic.
John Milton, English poet, used his epic poem Paradise Lost to present the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve in a way people of his time, seventeenth century, had never been exposed to. Throughout the story, we are enthralled with the revengeful attributes of Satan and the loving, forgiving, and even punishable attributes of God. Milton doesn’t present the character God until Book 3. In lines 80-134, Milton presents his audience with the idea of predestination and free will from God’s own point of view through a conversation between his characters: God and the Son.
God expresses to His son the difference of knowing what will happen and predestining what will happen. In Paradise Lost, Milton uses the literary elements of repetition and sentence structure to reveal the truth of free will to his readers. Milton uses repetition to demonstrate to his readers the difference between knowing what will happen versus having a predetermined, influential stance on something. Milton uses the possessive pronoun ‘their’ to stress the importance on the matter of the people possessing something or something being a part of their possessions.

For example, “their maker, or their making, or their fate” illustrates this concept in the epic poem (Milton, Book III, line 113). Here, Milton expresses how if people have free will they can no longer claim these things because they are a part of the human race and therefore possess human nature. From this, people have a maker who made them into the people they are today. Therefore, people are made with free will and cannot blame their maker for their own fate because people do not determine it alone. These three facets, in a way, intertwine with one another.
People cannot blame one without the other two or vice versa. People’s fate is part of their making and people’s making is part of their maker, hence the possessive pronoun ‘their’. Milton says predestination “over-rul’d their will” (Milton, Book III, lines 114-115). Now the freedom is taken away. Everything is already determined and no choices will need to be made. In lines 116-118, Milton gives his returning argument against predestination by saying, “they themselves decreed their own revolt, not I: if I foreknew, foreknowledge had no influence on their fault”.
Milton states here his stance on free will. God may know what will happen, but he is not influencing people’s decisions. He allows people to make them on our own. As well as repetition, Milton also uses sentence structure to relay to the readers the theme of his epic poem. In book III, lines 129-134, Milton uses three different colons in one sentence to make the reader realize that one point leads to the next. Colons in grammar are used to demonstrate lists.
Milton does this by stating, “The first sort by their own suggestion fell, self-tempted, self-depraved: Man falls deceived by the other first: Man therefore shall find grace, the other none: in mercy and justice both, through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel, but Mercy first and last shall brightest shine. ”. Milton concludes this conversation between God and the Son with these lines. Milton utilizes the colons to express that these events would not happen without the preceding event occurring. Without sin or impurity, mankind is in no need of grace or mercy. Through these imperfections, the Lord is praised by his people.
Humans are corrupt as people and tempted by each other. Satan, in the Garden of Eden, tempted Eve and Eve tempted Adam; mankind was self-tempted. Man fell because of his fellow man. Through mercy and grace, the Lord is glorified and his mercy outshines everything. By God offering his grace and mercy to mankind, He reveals His giving nature. He is offering mankind grace and mercy to be saved, but He not forcing it upon them. Through the free will God gave us, people can worship him with sincerity and genuine love. Sincerity people would not have if he predestined them. Milton is driving this point home in this section of his epic poem.
God’s love and mercy is everlasting, and Milton says it will prevail through everything. The debate between free will and predestination will always be present. Regardless how many theologians research it and search scriptures for answers, this debate will always exist. There are some things the Lord does not reveal to His people so they are able to step out in faith and trust in Him. By using repetition and sentence structure, Milton expresses the view of free will from God’s perspective. Through Paradise Lost, Milton shows us a glimpse of what the wonderful Gospel of Christ truly is.

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