John Milton’s Paradise Lost was first published in 1667. It is a rewarding work for several reasons. Milton’s writing is captivatingly vivid and imaginative. E.g. there’s a scene in Hell in which Satan, approaching Hell’s gates, has his path blocked by Death. They square off, and you can practically smell the thunderclouds gathering. And Milton’s descriptions of Eden are lush, as lush as Eden itself.
Another interesting element of this work: I’d always thought that beginning a work of literature or theatre in media res was a peculiarly modern practice. But Paradise Lost opens with Lucifer and the other fallen angels picking themselves up and dusting themselves off in Hell. Only much later do we get a flashback to the battle in Heaven that ends with them being cast down into Hell.
Because the language is three and a half centuries old, I have benefitted from reading an annotated edition, with the annotations at the bottom of each page so one needn’t flip back and forth to get at them. I recommend such to anyone who plans on reading this classic.
But enough preliminaries. This is a Red Pill in Fiction post. Our focus will be the passages in which Eve, and then Adam, are tempted into sin. This whole section of Paradise Lost draws out and makes explicit certain features of female psychology that are present but less explicit in the Bible. Back in the 1600s there were a lot fewer delusions about women in the cultural air.
(1) Milton knew about the female rationalization hamster. The setup: Satan is lurking around the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve into sin. God, aware of this, sends the angel Raphael to warn them. Raphael describes the War in Heaven to Adam and Eve, establishing Satan’s evil, then basically says, “That demon is coming to tempt you into sin. Don’t fall for his wiles.”
Eve’s hamster kicks into high gear the moment she learns that Satan is on the loose. She hamsterbates wildly, spewing a bunch of sophistry to convince Adam to let her wander off when she knows there’s an evil man in the area.
After Raphael has departed, Eve: Adam hon, we’ve got a lot of work to do, pruning all these plants and whatnot as God has ordered us, so
“Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Leads thee, or where most needs, whether to wind
The woodbine round this arbour, or direct
The clasping ivy where to climb; while I,
In yonder spring of roses intermixed
With myrtle, find what to redress till noon:
For, while so near each other thus all day
Our task we choose, what wonder if so near
Looks intervene and smiles, or object new
Casual discourse draw on; which intermits
Our day’s work…”
We wouldn’t want to hang around near each other; we might be tempted to interrupt the work God has assigned to us!
Adam: Aw, babe, God hasn’t told us that we can never talk or snuggle-boo! He created us to enjoy life. And besides, this Garden is never really going to be in control until we have more hands to help us out, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless…
“to short absence I could yield:
For solitude sometimes is best society,
And short retirement urges sweet return.
But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
Befall thee severed from me; for thou knowest
What hath been warned us, what malicious foe
Envying our happiness, and of his own
Despairing, seeks to work us woe and shame
By sly assault; and somewhere nigh at hand
Watches, no doubt, with greedy hope to find
His wish and best advantage, us asunder;
Hopeless to circumvent us joined, where each
To other speedy aid might lend at need:
Whether his first design be to withdraw
Our fealty from God, or to disturb
Conjugal love, than which perhaps no bliss
Enjoyed by us excites his envy more;
Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
That gave thee being, still shades thee, and protects.
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.”
“that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt
To God or thee, because we have a foe
May tempt it, I expected not to hear.
His violence thou fearest not, being such
As we, not capable of death or pain,
Can either not receive, or can repel.
His fraud is then thy fear; which plain infers
Thy equal fear, that my firm faith and love
Can by his fraud be shaken or seduced;
Thoughts, which how found they harbour in thy breast,
Adam, mis-thought of her to thee so dear?”
In short, “Don’t you trust me? I’m hurt!” This is the kind of thing you get in field reports on long-term-relationship Game blogs today. Not only is female nature the same, even the particular bullshit arguments and emotional manipulations are the same, as back in Milton’s day.
Adam at this point should say, “There’s a dangerous being about; you’re staying with me, discussion over.” But instead he’s like, “Babe, it’s not that I doubt you; it’s just that the very fact that he might try to tempt your virtue would be an insult to you. He wouldn’t dare try it if I’m around, so stay with me.” Notice he’s trying to reason with her, and he’s also showing weakness. She knows quite well he doesn’t trust her— and as events show he’s damn well right not to— but by showing himself afraid to lay down the law, he earns her contempt and makes the situation worse.
Her response is— surprise!— more hamsterbating rationalizations about why she should wander off alone:
“If this be our condition, thus to dwell
In narrow circuit straitened by a foe…
How are we happy, still in fear of harm?
But harm precedes not sin: only our foe,
Tempting, affronts us with his foul esteem
Of our integrity: his foul esteem
Sticks no dishonour on our front, but turns
Foul on himself; then wherefore shunned or feared
By us? who rather double honour gain
From his surmise proved false…
And what is faith, love, virtue, unassayed
Alone, without exteriour help sustained?”
She really wants to jet off and find the bad boy. If I were Adam, what I’d be learning about my wife in this conversation would totally change how I see her, and not for the better.
Adam: Babe, look: God Himself made us, so we basically already know we’re pretty much perfect. We don’t need to test that. But also, he did give us free will, which could be an entry point for some subtle sophistry of the enemy…
“…Not then mistrust, but tender love, enjoins,
That I should mind thee oft; and mind thou me.
Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve;
Since Reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the foe suborned,
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warned.
Seek not temptation then, which to avoid
Were better, and most likely if from me
Thou sever not: Trial will come unsought.
Wouldst thou approve thy constancy, approve
First thy obedience; the other who can know,
Not seeing thee attempted, who attest?”
If only he’d stopped there. But he continues:
“But, if thou think, trial unsought may find
Us both securer than thus warned thou seemest,
Go; for thy stay, not free, absents thee more;
Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue; summon all!”
“With thy permission then, and thus forewarned
Chiefly by what thy own last reasoning words
Touched only; that our trial, when least sought,
May find us both perhaps far less prepared,
The willinger I go, nor much expect
A foe so proud will first the weaker seek;
So bent, the more shall shame him his repulse.”
Yadda yadda, hamsterbate hamsterbate, see ya later! Now where’s that lawless rebel bad boy?! Whoops, goodness, I almost slipped and fell! Some slick substance is coming out of that hole between my legs and running down my leg. I wonder why? How strange!
(2) Lucifer’s corrupting of Eve is almost explicitly sexual. The whole scene reeks of seduction. It is very much the bad bad man seducing a woman away from her nice-guy boyfriend/husband.
It starts with… peacocking! Satan, having possessed the serpent:
Addressed his way: not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since; but on his rear,
Circular base of rising folds, that towered
Fold above fold, a surging maze! his head
Crested aloft, and carbuncle his eyes;
With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect
Amidst his circling spires, that on the grass
Floated redundant: pleasing was his shape
When he sees that Eve has noticed him he lays on some flattery about how goddess-level beautiful she is. Should’ve opened with a neg, but I guess Milton wasn’t that much of a playah. Eve expresses surprise that the snake can talk all of a sudden, and he’s like, “Oh yeah, it was the weirdest thing! I just ate some fruit from this one tree and suddenly I became like so much smarter and wiser! Isn’t that cool?!”
You’d think Eve would catch on at this point— she and Adam have been warned about a particular tree— but she doesn’t, or tells herself that she doesn’t.
Here’s part of Satan-as-the-Serpent’s patter:
A goodly tree far distant to behold
Loaden with fruit of fairest colours mixed,
Ruddy and gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
When from the boughs a savoury odour blown,
Grateful to appetite, more pleased my sense
Than smell of sweetest fennel, or the teats
Of ewe or goat dropping with milk at even,
Unsucked of lamb or kid, that tend their play.
To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples, I resolved…”
There are a lot of double meanings in Paradise Lost (again, get an annotated edition to pick up on it). As one commentator has noted, the language in it is “unceasingly active.” With that in mind, note the double-entendre in the reference to teats dripping with milk, and then “To satisfy the sharp desire I had
Of tasting those fair apples…”
This juxtaposition is almost certainly not an accident, and it brings the sexual element of Satan’s tempting of Eve to the forefront.
Serpent: “About the mossy trunk I wound me soon.” I know I have a dirty mind, but this also strikes me as sexual; he’s physically taking possession of the tree. I mean, why is he even telling Eve this detail?
And recall the word “erect” describing the serpent earlier, when he first appears in Eve’s view, and note it’s emphasized by being placed at the end of its line.
Eve, who doesn’t know which tree the serpent is referring to, says, “Lead me there.” He does, and she’s like, “Oh, too bad; this is the one tree that God told us we can’t eat from.” Satan lays some sophistry on her: “Come on, you know you wanna; live a little!” When he’s done making his case:
“He ended; and his words, replete with guile,
Into her heart too easy entrance won”
The serpent (who is a big long tube of muscle) easily gets into Eve. It’s too easy to read this in Beavis-and-Butthead voice. But seriously: of all the animals that could have seduced a female into bad behavior, it just happens to be the one that’s unmistakably phallic? No, the sexual element is definitely there. Of course it’s there in Genesis to begin with, but Milton took it and ran with it.
Anyway, the serpent’s bullshit just kick-starts the temptation process. The real work is done by Eve herself, who becomes one with her rationalization hamster at this point:
“ ‘Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired;
Whose taste, too long forborn, at first assay
Gave elocution to the mute, and taught
The tongue not made for speech to speak thy praise:
Thy praise he also, who forbids thy use,
Conceals not from us, naming thee the tree
Of knowledge, knowledge both of good and evil;
Forbids us then to taste! but his forbidding
Commends thee more, while it infers the good
By thee communicated, and our want:
For good unknown sure is not had; or, had
And yet unknown, is as not had at all.
In plain then, what forbids he but to know,
Forbids us good, forbids us to be wise,
Such prohibitions bind not. But, if death
Bind us with after-bands, what profits then
Our inward freedom? In the day we eat
Of this fair fruit, our doom is, we shall die!
How dies the Serpent? he hath eaten and lives,
And knows, and speaks, and reasons, and discerns,
Irrational till then. For us alone
Was death invented? or to us denied
This intellectual food, for beasts reserved?
For beasts it seems: yet that one beast which first
Hath tasted envies not, but brings with joy
The good befallen him, author unsuspect,
Friendly to man, far from deceit or guile.
What fear I then? rather, what know to fear
Under this ignorance of good and evil,
Of God or death, of law or penalty?
Here grows the cure of all, this fruit divine,
Fair to the eye, inviting to the taste,
Of virtue to make wise: What hinders then
To reach, and feed at once both body and mind?’
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat!”
Intent now wholly on her taste, nought else
Regarded; such delight till then, as seemed,
In fruit she never tasted, whether true
Or fancied so, through expectation high
Of knowledge; not was Godhead from her thought.
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death…”
(3) After the damage is done, Eve tells Adam that he should have resisted her wiles more. “How dare you not stop me from doing what I did!” What a twat.
“Would thou hadst hearkened to my words, and stayed
With me, as I besought thee, when that strange
Desire of wandering, this unhappy morn,
I know not whence possessed thee; we had then
Remained still happy; not, as now, despoiled
Of all our good; shamed, naked, miserable!
Let none henceforth seek needless cause to approve
The faith they owe; when earnestly they seek
Such proof, conclude, they then begin to fail.”
Eve refuses to take responsibility and blames him:
“What words have passed thy lips, Adam severe!
Imputest thou that to my default, or will
Of wandering, as thou callest it, which who knows
But might as ill have happened thou being by,
Or to thyself perhaps?…
Was I to have never parted from thy side?
As good have grown there still a lifeless rib.
Being as I am, why didst not thou, the head,
Command me absolutely not to go,
Going into such danger, as thou saidst?”
Fuck you, bitch! Aargh, this pisses me off. She tries every argument she can muster to get away by herself, then commits a sin, then blames him for not stopping her! Grrr!
“Too facile then, thou didst not much gainsay;
Nay, didst permit, approve, and fair dismiss.
Hadst thou been firm and fixed in thy dissent,
Neither had I transgressed, nor thou with me.”
“Sure, I sinned, but it’s your fault for not stopping me!” Bitch!
No evil durst attempt thee; but I rue
The errour now, which is become my crime,
And thou the accuser. Thus it shall befall
Him, who, to worth in women overtrusting,
Lets her will rule: restraint she will not brook;
And, left to herself, if evil thence ensue,
She first his weak indulgence will accuse.”
(4) God’s judgment on Adam and Eve in Eden contains a lot of red pill ideas. By the way, in Paradise Lost it is not God but Jesus who descends from Heaven to judge Adam and Eve. This is bizarrely contra-textual: Genesis is very clear that it’s God. I have no idea what Milton thought he was doing here. I seem to remember some theological controversy about whether or not Jesus always existed in Heaven before he was born on Earth. I’ll leave that one to theologians. Milton’s position on that is quite clear, since the judging of Adam and Eve is preceded by pages of text of Jesus in Heaven, first being introduced by God to the angels, then kicking Satan’s ass out of Heaven during the War in Heaven, then talking with God about how to handle Adam and Eve. I’m going to un-do Milton’s weird ret-conning and correctly portray the judge as God.
Adam to God: “Uh, the woman tempted me, yeah, some commands were disobeyed, some forbidden fruits were eaten…”
God to Adam:
“Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey
Before his voice? or was she made thy guide,
Superiour, or but equal, that to her
Thou didst resign thy manhood, and the place
Wherein God set thee above her made of thee,
And for thee, whose perfection far excelled
Hers in all real dignity? Adorned
She was indeed, and lovely, to attract
Thy love, not thy subjection; and her gifts
Were such, as under government well seemed;
Unseemly to bear rule; which was thy part
And person, hadst thou known thyself aright.”
And after rebuking Eve, back to Adam:
“Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife,
And eaten of the tree, concerning which
I charged thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat thereof:
Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thou in sorrow
Shalt eat thereof, all the days of thy life…”
God: You are banned from this Garden; by the sweat of thy brow thou will earn thy bread.
Adam: Can we get our hands stamped so we can get back in later?
God: NO!! You’re banned forever. And I’m setting up a bouncer at the eastern door that’s a giant sword that turns every which way. And thou, Eve, will suffer tribulations of child-rearing.
Eve: Whatever, how bad can it be? OW, fucking Legos! Damn, these things are sharp. If we had shoes instead of being naked…
God: Very well, here are some animal skins you may use as raiments.
Eve: Thanks. Now we’ll just be on our way. Oh, DAMN IT, what a mess! Spill-proof child cup, my ass!
God: Take off. And don’t touch my stuff ever again. I foresee that the next person who tries that will be many centuries in the future, with a forbidden ark, and I’m gonna melt his face off like a wax candle in a microwave.
(5) Vox Day’s “Women ruin everything,” John Milton style. After sentence has been passed and God has returned to Heaven, Adam addresses Eve. Regarding the first line of this next passage, my edition notes that when Milton wrote, the name Eve was thought to be etymologically related to the Hebrew word for “serpent”:
“Out of my sight, thou Serpent! That name best
Befits thee with him leagued, thyself as false
And hateful; nothing wants, but that thy shape,
Like his, and colour serpentine, may show
Thy inward fraud; to warn all creatures from thee
Henceforth; lest that too heavenly form, pretended
To hellish falsehood, snare them! But for thee
I had persisted happy; had not thy pride
And wandering vanity, when least was safe,
Rejected my forewarning, and disdained
Not to be trusted; longing to be seen,
Though by the Devil himself.
And more that shall befall; innumerable
Disturbances on earth through female snares,
And strait conjunction with this sex: for either
He never shall find out fit mate…
Or whom he wishes most shall seldom gain
Through her perverseness, but shall see her gained
By a far worse…”
The preface to my edition mentions that feminists don’t like Milton, for some reason.
Well, there it is. Pretty based on the red-pill stuff, and I haven’t even given you all of it.
But most of this work is not about chicks; it’s about religion. It has war between good and evil, excellent descriptions of various locations (Hell, Eden, etc.), love, sin, death, pride, promised redemption, a fuck-ton of allusions to Greek myths (if you like that sort of thing) and of course the Bible, and some very vivid, hard-core descriptions of monsters, gods, and devils. As just one example, here’s Milton’s take on Sin: She looks like a beautiful woman from the waist up but from the waist down she’s a bunch of snakes. Dogs erupt from her womb hourly, run around, then climb back inside her and gnaw at her internal organs until they’re all eaten up, then they burst forth again and the cycle repeats. Yikes.
Index page for my Red Pill in Fiction posts (or just see the top of this page):