Hell, maybe it's you, Adam: the mimetics of troubled identifications in Paradise Lost

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
J. Aaron Moore (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site: http://library.uncw.edu/
Mark Boren

Abstract: Adam, as does every male character in this text, is only listening to himself speak, not Eve. Indeed, Eve is merely a projection of Adam – a mirror, as it were, of his own thoughts and fears. Milton has placed many of these miscommunication mirrors throughout the text, and the celestial light of misunderstanding bounces continually in all directions. It is my contention that there is a trinity of triangles occurring in each instance of verbal exchange in Paradise Lost – a series of prisms of mirrors. Each instance of triangular mirroring is one of three types. There is, firstly, a recurrent mirroring that happens at the directly conversational level, involving three gendered subject positions: a masculine self, a feminized other, and God’s textual law. We’ll call this tripartite template the rhetorical mirroring. The images repeat, as this creates mirroring that occurs at another level, for the three characters who each play the same role in the tripartite scenario: God, Satan, and Adam. These three males each occupy the masculine position of the template, and share specific commonalities in their dispositions toward their respective others, as if they are all mirror images of one another. This we will call masculine mirroring. The third level of mirroring occurs existentially during the act of reading -- by setting up for the reader an identification with Adam, Milton therefore turns a mirror on the reader, and offers a text that works as a cipher. These three planes, the rhetorical mirror, the masculine mirror, and the narrative mirror, further make up a metatextual triangular prism. In a prismatic reading of the text, we can see how we project our own images and phantoms, but hopefully we’ll also see how the true colors of that mysterious light that is our own is reflected back to us, revealing our own constituent hues.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Milton John 1608-1674 Paradise lost--Criticism and interpretation, Narration (Rhetoric)
Milton, John, 1608-1674. Paradise lost -- Criticism and interpretation
Narration (Rhetoric)

Email this document to