The Creation of Self-Worth in Paradise

In order to determine whether Adam and Eve forfeit paradise, it must be determined whether Eden, as presented by John Milton in his epic work Paradise Lost, truly serves as a paradise for it occupants. Milton’s Paradise successfully serves as a paradise for Adam and Eve because it induces unqualified happiness in its inhabitants by engendering a sense of self-worth in Adam and Eve. Paradise is only worthy of its name if it is deemed so by its inhabitants. In order for Eden to serve as paradise for Adam and Eve, it must make them happy. Paradise elicits happiness from its inhabitants because it creates in them a feeling of self-worth, or rather a sense that their existence has value and importance. This sense of self-worth serves as the foundation of happiness because without it, Adam and Eve would quickly fall into despair. Despite the many pleasures of Paradise, they would quickly determine, using their innate intellect and ability to reason, that they are of no consequence in the world—they would feel useless and unimportant. They would feel lowlier than the beasts, being of less use and having less of a defined role in Paradise, because they would be cursed with the ability to know of their own uselessness. In reading Book IV, this is clearly not the case because despair is not present. Adam and Eve are able to enjoy a happy life in Paradise because Paradise provides them with the three essential components of self-worth: security, mastery, and companionship. These three components represent the structure of self-worth, from its fundamental base, security, to its culmination in companionship. Security provides the foundation for the creation of happiness for Adam and Eve because it serves as a prerequisite for the creation of a sense of self-worth. A strong and deep-seeded sense of value and importance in life cannot exist if the continuation of that life is subject to constant threat. If the threat to life is constant and pervasive, then the preservation of life becomes the only concern. The daily quest for survival would provide little time to reflect on life’s meaning and one’s place in the world. A feeling of safety is required to allow Adam and Eve’s thoughts to blossom into reflections on their lives, and only through these reflections can they come to know whether they feel valuable and important—whether they have a sense of self-worth. A feeling of safety serves as a necessary component of contentment because it prevents feelings of anxiety and fear concerning the surroundings and the immediate future. The most obvious example of safety in Eden involves the role of the “verdurous wall” (l. 143). Traditionally, the presence of this wall has been a point of great contention among those who would debate whether Eden is a depiction of true paradise. Many argue that it inhibits freedom of movement for Adam and Eve: surely, Eden cannot be a paradise if it inhibits freedom. In response to the idea that the wall is intended for the protection and safety of Adam and Eve, many contend that it fails to keep out the most dangerous, and seemingly only threat to their well-being—Satan. These are valid arguments if the lens through which Paradise is viewed is a personal one, subject to the likes and dislikes of the viewer. For some, total freedom may seem frightening, making the wall a welcome presence in their paradise. For many others, any inhibition is unwelcome, thus eliminating the wall from their personal paradise. In the context of this argument, however, the wall represents a sign of security and safety because the lens through which it is viewed belongs to Adam and Eve. Only if they feel it inhibits their freedom should it be considered inhibiting. No where in the text of Book IV do either Adam or Eve mention any constraints placed on them by the existence of the wall. The clearest evidence depicting the role of the wall comes from the narrator, who discusses it from an exterior as well as from an interior perspective. The exterior perspective is Satan’s. He perceives the wall as stately and presumably formidable because it may impede his passage into Paradise. Indeed, he cannot enter Paradise through it; he must go over it instead. In a later description of Paradise, the narrator describes it as a “happy rural seat of various view” (l. 246). This line may imply that the seat of Paradise affords a view of its surroundings, or that Paradise contains within itself various views. If the former is true, then the purpose of the wall is to defend from without, but to allow for pleasant views from within, negating, at least in part, its potential role as an constrictor of freedom, since it is not perceived as ominous from within. Its purpose would then lie solely in providing security for Adam and Eve, since it is perceived as ominous from without. If the latter proves true, and Paradise merely contains various views, then this line does not serve as sufficient evidence for differing perceptions concerning the wall. The true test of purpose regarding the wall lies within the level of comfort it creates for the inhabitants within. Some modicum of security, and the comfort provided by that security is necessary to provide an environment in which reflection is feasible and not detrimental to survival. The wall serves as a tool in Paradise to help create a sense of security and comfort, which will eventually allow for the growth of a felling of self-worth in Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve do not mention that the wall inhibits their freedom, or more importantly, that it in any way diminishes their happiness. In this case an absence of evidence can serve as evidence of absence because the wall makes so little impact on the lives of Adam and Eve in Book IV that they do not even bother to mention its presence. If it provided a source of discomfort or trepidation, some evidence of discontent over the general state of Paradise should be present in the text, especially in their dialogue. If Adam and Eve did feel that the wall inhibited their freedom, something presumably this important would force them to at least doubt the supposed ideal nature of paradise. They do not. Either they do not perceive it as an impediment to freedom, or they do not perceive an impediment to freedom as an impediment to happiness. In either case, happiness in their paradise is maintained in spite of, if not because of the presence of the verdurous wall, and a sensation of self-worth in Adam and Eve can now emerge. Once this sense of security is established and the foundations of self-worth are in place, the construction of the edifice of self-worth can begin. Adam and Eve’s mastery over Paradise represents the initial formation of their sense of self-worth. Mastery allows them to feel important and valuable in their roles in Paradise: important in their dominion over all of Paradise and valuable in their duty as Paradise’s caretakers. Mastery forms the most basic sense of self-worth because it clearly defines Adam and Eve’s place and duty in Paradise; their job, their role, gives their daily life purpose and meaning. This basic sense of self-worth is primarily derived from the work they are assigned for their days in Paradise. This assigned work amounts to tending the growth of the garden to prevent overgrowth, and general maintenance of its appearance. By having a job to do for their Creator, Adam and Eve feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day, and in completing their assignment, they finish happy in their mutual help and mutual love, as evidenced by their prayer before retiring. Work allows them to spend time together, and it provides them with a sense that they have pleased God. Neither Adam nor Eve refer to the work as toilsome or burdensome; they only refer to it as pleasant and delightful. The strongest evidence that work affords them a sense of self-worth comes in Adam’s discussion of their need to rest. He states that “Man hath his daily work of body or mind / Appointed, which declares his Dignitie, / And the regard of Heav’n on all his waies” (ll. 618-620). Not only do their labors link them to God, but they also provide Adam and Eve with dignity. Working in God’s garden allows them to find contentment in service, and through service, contentment in self-respect. Adam and Eve also derive a sense of importance from the dominion God has given them over their surroundings. Adam notes that they are “Among so many signes of power and rule / Conferrd upon us, and Dominion giv’n / Over all other Creatures that possess / Earth, Aire, and Sea” (ll. 429-432). With their role in Paradise clearly defined, Adam and Eve have no doubts as to their duties or their position among their surroundings. God has made their dominion and their duty clear. This clarity bring with it an understanding that without them, Paradise would lose its masters and would quickly fall to disarray. Throughout Book IV, Adam and Eve mention their comprehension of the fact that Paradise exists for them, given by God. In a discussion of mastery, this serves as the most compelling argument for the presence of peace of mind for Adam and Eve, which generates their sense of self-worth: they dwell in God’s garden and, more importantly, they dwell in God’s favor. Once mastery is established, the basic premise of self-worth is present: they know their role in life, and they are made happy in that knowledge. Life in Paradise does not merely afford them with the rudiments of self-worth, however. Adam and Eve’s sense of self-worth grows in their relationship with each other. Adam and Eve’s companionship and love in Paradise represent the pinnacle of their sense of self-worth because in each other they find partnership and wholeness. Their relationship, as intended by God, begins on the level of companionship: God creates Eve as a companion for Adam. In their daily lives, they aid each other in work and they cure each other’s loneliness. While this serves as the foundation of their relationship, their companionship is transcended by love. In their love for each other, Adam and Eve create the most important meaning in their lives through their relationship with each other. In love, they find completion, not just companionship. In love they find wholeness, and they understand themselves most clearly in the context of that love. This understanding allows for a further development of their sense of self-worth because, in the happiness of their love, and in the reflection of that love in each other, each sees value in their own self: if the other person loves them, there must be something worthy of love. Adam and Eve’s companionship relies on their need and desire for each other. It fulfills the need for partnership and it prevents loneliness, while establishing a base upon which the growth of self-worth in love can occur. Adam often express his desire for Eve’s presence and companionship because she is his “Sole partner and sole part of all these joyes” (l. 411). The possible puns on “soul” indicate the depth of their relationship: they are partners in spirit as well as in duty. Their suitability for one another is symbolized in the fact the Eve is made from Adam’s rib: she is an extension of him, and he is a part of her. Eve expresses similar desire for Adam’s companionship. She describes the hierarchy of law in Paradise, from God to Adam, and from Adam to her, and declares that “to know no more / Is womans happiest knowledge and her praise” (ll. 637-638). She desires Adam’s company because his role as her link to God brings her joy. Eve even goes so far as to declare that all of the splendor of Eden is lost to her without Adam. She makes her own happiness contingent on his presence and companionship. Because she has him, she can enjoy Paradise and live happily. Adam and Eve attain joy in the happiness that their companionship affords them. The narrator allows a glimpse into the feelings of both Adam and Eve, and the glimpse reveals a love which both share with one another. The narrative voice clearly depicts Adam’s attitude toward Eve when it states that “he in delight / Both of her Beauty and submissive Charms / Smil’d with superior Love…” (ll. 497-499). In the same passage, Eve’s love for Adam is implied by her actions toward him. She submissively leans into Adam and embraces him in “conjugal attraction.” While this does not necessarily suffice as direct evidence of love, it does provide circumstantial evidence because she acts in the manner of a lover toward her mate. Her love for him becomes clear later, in the stated mutuality of their love in their prayer to God. Before retiring for the night, Adam and Eve declare “we in our appointed work imployd / Have finisht happie in our mutual help / And mutual love” (ll. 726-728). Not only does the prayer express the mutuality of their love, but it also reveals the importance of love in their lives. In Eve’s previous declaration that her happiness is contingent upon Adam, it becomes clear that Paradise loses its meaning and its worth without the presence of love. Adam and Eve’s life is meaningful because they love. The meaning and importance their relationship creates provides the highest expression of self-worth because, as evidenced throughout Book IV, Adam and Eve are images of each other. As each sees love reflected in the other, both Adam and Eve experience a self-love, which defines the height of self-worth. In Milton’s depiction of Paradise, Adam and Eve find true happiness because they understand and believe in the validity of their own self-worth. Security supports the structure of self-worth, the beginnings of which can be found in the presence of Adam and Eve’s mastery. Self-worth finds its fullest expression, however, in the love shared by Adam and Eve, because it, more than anything else, makes them happy and allows them to truly experience paradise. Milton’s title, Paradise Lost, is appropriate because Adam and Eve deem Eden a paradise through their behavior and beliefs, and they truly lose a state of great worthiness and happiness when they lose Paradise. The Creation of Self-Worth in Paradise In order to determine whether Adam and Eve forfeit paradise, it must be determined whether Eden, as presented by John Milton in his epic work Paradise Lost, truly serves as a paradise for it occupants. Milton’s Paradise successfully serves as a paradise for Adam and Eve because it induces unqualified happiness in its inhabitants by engendering a sense of self-worth in Adam and Eve. Paradise is only worthy of its name if it is deemed so by its inhabitants. In order for Eden to serve as paradise for Adam and Eve, it must make them happy. Paradise elicits happiness from its inhabitants because it creates in them a feeling of self-worth, or rather a sense that their existence has value and importance. This sense of self-worth serves as the foundation of happiness because without it, Adam and Eve would quickly fall into despair. Despite the many pleasures of Paradise, they would quickly determine, using their innate intellect and ability to reason, that they are of no consequence in the world—they would feel useless and unimportant. They would feel lowlier than the beasts, being of less use and having less of a defined role in Paradise, because they would be cursed with the ability to know of their own uselessness. In reading Book IV, this is clearly not the case because despair is not present. Adam and Eve are able to enjoy a happy life in Paradise because Paradise provides them with the three essential components of self-worth: security, mastery, and companionship. These three components represent the structure of self-worth, from its fundamental base, security, to its culmination in companionship. Security provides the foundation for the creation of happiness for Adam and Eve because it serves as a prerequisite for the creation of a sense of self-worth. A strong and deep-seeded sense of value and importance in life cannot exist if the continuation of that life is subject to constant threat. If the threat to life is constant and pervasive, then the preservation of life becomes the only concern. The daily quest for survival would provide little time to reflect on life’s meaning and one’s place in the world. A feeling of safety is required to allow Adam and Eve’s thoughts to blossom into reflections on their lives, and only through these reflections can they come to know whether they feel valuable and important—whether they have a sense of self-worth. A feeling of safety serves as a necessary component of contentment because it prevents feelings of anxiety and fear concerning the surroundings and the immediate future. The most obvious example of safety in Eden involves the role of the “verdurous wall” (l. 143). Traditionally, the presence of this wall has been a point of great contention among those who would debate whether Eden is a depiction of true paradise. Many argue that it inhibits freedom of movement for Adam and Eve: surely, Eden cannot be a paradise if it inhibits freedom. In response to the idea that the wall is intended for the protection and safety of Adam and Eve, many contend that it fails to keep out the most dangerous, and seemingly only threat to their well-being—Satan. These are valid arguments if the lens through which Paradise is viewed is a personal one, subject to the likes and dislikes of the viewer. For some, total freedom may seem frightening, making the wall a welcome presence in their paradise. For many others, any inhibition is unwelcome, thus eliminating the wall from their personal paradise. In the context of this argument, however, the wall represents a sign of security and safety because the lens through which it is viewed belongs to Adam and Eve. Only if they feel it inhibits their freedom should it be considered inhibiting. No where in the text of Book IV do either Adam or Eve mention any constraints placed on them by the existence of the wall. The clearest evidence depicting the role of the wall comes from the narrator, who discusses it from an exterior as well as from an interior perspective. The exterior perspective is Satan’s. He perceives the wall as stately and presumably formidable because it may impede his passage into Paradise. Indeed, he cannot enter Paradise through it; he must go over it instead. In a later description of Paradise, the narrator describes it as a “happy rural seat of various view” (l. 246). This line may imply that the seat of Paradise affords a view of its surroundings, or that Paradise contains within itself various views. If the former is true, then the purpose of the wall is to defend from without, but to allow for pleasant views from within, negating, at least in part, its potential role as an constrictor of freedom, since it is not perceived as ominous from within. Its purpose would then lie solely in providing security for Adam and Eve, since it is perceived as ominous from without. If the latter proves true, and Paradise merely contains various views, then this line does not serve as sufficient evidence for differing perceptions concerning the wall. The true test of purpose regarding the wall lies within the level of comfort it creates for the inhabitants within. Some modicum of security, and the comfort provided by that security is necessary to provide an environment in which reflection is feasible and not detrimental to survival. The wall serves as a tool in Paradise to help create a sense of security and comfort, which will eventually allow for the growth of a felling of self-worth in Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve do not mention that the wall inhibits their freedom, or more importantly, that it in any way diminishes their happiness. In this case an absence of evidence can serve as evidence of absence because the wall makes so little impact on the lives of Adam and Eve in Book IV that they do not even bother to mention its presence. If it provided a source of discomfort or trepidation, some evidence of discontent over the general state of Paradise should be present in the text, especially in their dialogue. If Adam and Eve did feel that the wall inhibited their freedom, something presumably this important would force them to at least doubt the supposed ideal nature of paradise. They do not. Either they do not perceive it as an impediment to freedom, or they do not perceive an impediment to freedom as an impediment to happiness. In either case, happiness in their paradise is maintained in spite of, if not because of the presence of the verdurous wall, and a sensation of self-worth in Adam and Eve can now emerge. Once this sense of security is established and the foundations of self-worth are in place, the construction of the edifice of self-worth can begin. Adam and Eve’s mastery over Paradise represents the initial formation of their sense of self-worth. Mastery allows them to feel important and valuable in their roles in Paradise: important in their dominion over all of Paradise and valuable in their duty as Paradise’s caretakers. Mastery forms the most basic sense of self-worth because it clearly defines Adam and Eve’s place and duty in Paradise; their job, their role, gives their daily life purpose and meaning. This basic sense of self-worth is primarily derived from the work they are assigned for their days in Paradise. This assigned work amounts to tending the growth of the garden to prevent overgrowth, and general maintenance of its appearance. By having a job to do for their Creator, Adam and Eve feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day, and in completing their assignment, they finish happy in their mutual help and mutual love, as evidenced by their prayer before retiring. Work allows them to spend time together, and it provides them with a sense that they have pleased God. Neither Adam nor Eve refer to the work as toilsome or burdensome; they only refer to it as pleasant and delightful. The strongest evidence that work affords them a sense of self-worth comes in Adam’s discussion of their need to rest. He states that “Man hath his daily work of body or mind / Appointed, which declares his Dignitie, / And the regard of Heav’n on all his waies” (ll. 618-620). Not only do their labors link them to God, but they also provide Adam and Eve with dignity. Working in God’s garden allows them to find contentment in service, and through service, contentment in self-respect. Adam and Eve also derive a sense of importance from the dominion God has given them over their surroundings. Adam notes that they are “Among so many signes of power and rule / Conferrd upon us, and Dominion giv’n / Over all other Creatures that possess / Earth, Aire, and Sea” (ll. 429-432). With their role in Paradise clearly defined, Adam and Eve have no doubts as to their duties or their position among their surroundings. God has made their dominion and their duty clear. This clarity bring with it an understanding that without them, Paradise would lose its masters and would quickly fall to disarray. Throughout Book IV, Adam and Eve mention their comprehension of the fact that Paradise exists for them, given by God. In a discussion of mastery, this serves as the most compelling argument for the presence of peace of mind for Adam and Eve, which generates their sense of self-worth: they dwell in God’s garden and, more importantly, they dwell in God’s favor. Once mastery is established, the basic premise of self-worth is present: they know their role in life, and they are made happy in that knowledge. Life in Paradise does not merely afford them with the rudiments of self-worth, however. Adam and Eve’s sense of self-worth grows in their relationship with each other. Adam and Eve’s companionship and love in Paradise represent the pinnacle of their sense of self-worth because in each other they find partnership and wholeness. Their relationship, as intended by God, begins on the level of companionship: God creates Eve as a companion for Adam. In their daily lives, they aid each other in work and they cure each other’s loneliness. While this serves as the foundation of their relationship, their companionship is transcended by love. In their love for each other, Adam and Eve create the most important meaning in their lives through their relationship with each other. In love, they find completion, not just companionship. In love they find wholeness, and they understand themselves most clearly in the context of that love. This understanding allows for a further development of their sense of self-worth because, in the happiness of their love, and in the reflection of that love in each other, each sees value in their own self: if the other person loves them, there must be something worthy of love. Adam and Eve’s companionship relies on their need and desire for each other. It fulfills the need for partnership and it prevents loneliness, while establishing a base upon which the growth of self-worth in love can occur. Adam often express his desire for Eve’s presence and companionship because she is his “Sole partner and sole part of all these joyes” (l. 411). The possible puns on “soul” indicate the depth of their relationship: they are partners in spirit as well as in duty. Their suitability for one another is symbolized in the fact the Eve is made from Adam’s rib: she is an extension of him, and he is a part of her. Eve expresses similar desire for Adam’s companionship. She describes the hierarchy of law in Paradise, from God to Adam, and from Adam to her, and declares that “to know no more / Is womans happiest knowledge and her praise” (ll. 637-638). She desires Adam’s company because his role as her link to God brings her joy. Eve even goes so far as to declare that all of the splendor of Eden is lost to her without Adam. She makes her own happiness contingent on his presence and companionship. Because she has him, she can enjoy Paradise and live happily. Adam and Eve attain joy in the happiness that their companionship affords them. The narrator allows a glimpse into the feelings of both Adam and Eve, and the glimpse reveals a love which both share with one another. The narrative voice clearly depicts Adam’s attitude toward Eve when it states that “he in delight / Both of her Beauty and submissive Charms / Smil’d with superior Love…” (ll. 497-499). In the same passage, Eve’s love for Adam is implied by her actions toward him. She submissively leans into Adam and embraces him in “conjugal attraction.” While this does not necessarily suffice as direct evidence of love, it does provide circumstantial evidence because she acts in the manner of a lover toward her mate. Her love for him becomes clear later, in the stated mutuality of their love in their prayer to God. Before retiring for the night, Adam and Eve declare “we in our appointed work imployd / Have finisht happie in our mutual help / And mutual love” (ll. 726-728). Not only does the prayer express the mutuality of their love, but it also reveals the importance of love in their lives. In Eve’s previous declaration that her happiness is contingent upon Adam, it becomes clear that Paradise loses its meaning and its worth without the presence of love. Adam and Eve’s life is meaningful because they love. The meaning and importance their relationship creates provides the highest expression of self-worth because, as evidenced throughout Book IV, Adam and Eve are images of each other. As each sees love reflected in the other, both Adam and Eve experience a self-love, which defines the height of self-worth. In Milton’s depiction of Paradise, Adam and Eve find true happiness because they understand and believe in the validity of their own self-worth. Security supports the structure of self-worth, the beginnings of which can be found in the presence of Adam and Eve’s mastery. Self-worth finds its fullest expression, however, in the love shared by Adam and Eve, because it, more than anything else, makes them happy and allows them to truly experience paradise. Milton’s title, Paradise Lost, is appropriate because Adam and Eve deem Eden a paradise through their behavior and beliefs, and they truly lose a state of great worthiness and happiness when they lose Paradise.