Paradise Lost Book 9- An ode to Aemelia Lanyer

**The following is my interpretation of a small portion from Paradise Lost Book 9 **

In this portion of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, we see Eve justifying her decision of choosing to eat the forbidden fruit.

What fear I then, rather what know to fear

Under this ignorance of good and evil,

Of God or death, of law or penalty?

Through these lines we see her questioning whether she needs to stay ignorant after all. She begins to question why she cannot acquire the knowledge of the world, of the many things that dictate life. She is aware that she is currently sleeping, unaware and ignorant. She is making here a conscious choice to educate herself.

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?

She realizes that the anecdote to her ignorance lies in this particular fruit. The fruit looks good, and she believes that it will do well to eat it too. Therefore she decides that she shall eat this fruit and feed her body and mind together.

What we see here, is simply a woman trying to become a thinking individual and amount to something.

In order to do this, she needs to break some rules. Simply because, to follow these rules would mean to willingly remain subordinate to a man who claims to know it all, but as we later see, probably doesn’t. 

She is actually staying true to her origin- i.e. the first woman, the original ‘mother’- Lillith. Though only meant to be known as Adam’s first wife and the mother of his children, she refused to allow that to be her only description. She wished to explore the arts and engage in critical thinking- something that ‘God’ did not appreciate. Hence, she was removed.

What I often wonder is, The Bible boasts of God being the source of all wisdom, all knowledge. So in essence, when Eve chose to eat the fruit, was she not seeking to go closer to God? Why is there a separation between God and knowledge- are they not really the same thing? God had maintained trees and fruits for the purpose of bettering a human’s life- so if he did not actually want them to consume it, why did he leave it in the human vicinity as a delicious looking fruit upon a tree? Keep in mind that this is a God who is all knowing, who never makes an error.

If the motive was to test their resistance to temptations- how can you know what is temptation and what is not, without having the knowledge of what is good and evil, i.e. without eating that fruit? By condemning this fruit eating, we are actually giving in to the true devil- ignorance.

The last part of this excerpt, is just a Hindi serial type of over dramatization that occurs to emphasize something ‘wrong.’

So saying, her rash hand in evil hour

Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:

Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat

Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,

That all was lost.

From my perspective, all was gained at this point. To gain knowledge is to gain everything. It is freedom. Was the Garden of Eden really that amazing, or did Adam and Eve not know any better?

Maybe ‘God’ the capitalist was upset that he was now losing the free labor Adam and Eve were providing while living in the garden. ‘God’ was exploiting them, and now they had the knowledge to realize that they could aspire to be much, much more.

Image credits: Google Images

Paradise Lost Book 4- The birth of revolution

**The following is my interpretation of a small portion of Paradise Lost Book 4**

In the excerpt I have taken, we see Adam talking to Eve about the garden. He is specifically emphasizing the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, informing Eve that they are not to eat from that tree since it would mean death to do so.

I wonder what it means to die upon eating the fruit of that tree of knowledge. It could have been the physical death- where they would either kill themselves out of guilt, or maybe God would kill them for having disobeyed them. Perhaps, they would choke on the fruit and die.

Or maybe it was a more metaphorical death. The death of one personality, and the awakening of something far greater.

What if we see it this way, Adam and Eve are plantation workers of Paradise Foods, run by ‘God’, who had spoken to Adam, and told him:

This one, this easy charge, of all the trees

In Paradise that bear delicious fruit

So various, not to taste that only Tree

Of Knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life,

He is telling Adam, though they will have control over all the trees they must not eat the fruit of this one particular tree. He does not specifically mention any consequences except ‘death.’ We can give this ambiguity of language the benefit of the doubt, and explore further.

So near grows death to life, whate’er death is,

Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou know’st

God hath pronounced it death to taste that Tree,

He is now simply parroting what God told him to Eve. He does not know the graveness of this punishment, he does not know what it means, and he has simply assumed from the tone in which God spoke that this is a grave mistake. We can see that God has successfully managed to instill in Adam the emotion of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of disobedience. Adam then goes on to say:

The only sign of our obedience left

Among so many signs of power and rule

Conferred upon us, and dominion giv’n

Over all other creatures that possess

Earth, air, and sea.

He has blindly believed what God had said to him. He pledges allegiance to God as shown by his urge to display obedience. He is grateful to God for having given them- the poor workers- a whole garden, without realizing that the purpose of this Garden was to fulfill their needs. It was made for them. They are the people working on it, cultivating it to bear fruit with aid of nature.

So by eating this fruit that will provide them with knowledge and the ability to reason, it could mean the death of a silent surrendering laborer, and the birth of an educated revolutionist. This could have been then, what ‘God’ the capitalist bourgeois was trying to avoid.

We know that knowledge is true God. Therefore, Eve worshipping the tree of Knowledge, was Eve worshipping God. A true well-wishing God would want her people to liberate themselves physically, the only way that may be possible is if they would first liberate themselves mentally, which in this case would be by attaining knowledge through the forbidden fruit. 

Image credits: Google Images

A Savarna House, in a Savarna world.

I live in a pretty big house in Kerala. I am very privileged. This house was bought after years of my fathers slavery in the Gulf. It was bought right before his oldest daughter began hunt for a groom. The biggest bedroom on the top floor of the house and the living room where guests sit have been inspired by Kerala boat houses. This should explain the wooden panels that surround it on all four sides- making it seem like a little wooden box. It also makes the room very dark, but is that the only darkness here?


There is another square building of two floors within the compounds of my house. The ground floor is a store room, and the top floor consists of a bed and an open window. It was made in an assumption that we would be rich enough for a driver. It has been used by many men- a Tamil man who had once come to help in the house, a distant cousin from my father’s village- because it was not appropriate for him to stay where two young unmarried girls live. At the corner of this building, sharing a wall with the walls of the compound, right at the back is a very tiny toilet. This is meant for any outsiders we are not related to and don’t hold in high regard (men especially), or the workers who come to pull out the weed in our garden, or for the help who comes to clean our house to change from her sari into a cleaning nightie, and then from nightie into sari before she leaves the house. The toilet was built initially due to the lack of planning during the house construction, because a spot for a common washroom was not even thought of in the main house.

We have two kitchens, like most houses in Kerala. Both are slapped at the back with terrible ventilation, which increases sweaty irritation in the summer. While one is decorated with white marble tiling and cupboards, the other has wooden cupboards and a granite counter. There are no walls in the second kitchen, except for the black grills that open out into our backyard garden- which has banana trees, coconut trees, mint leaves, tapioca, and other food plants.

The second, outside kitchen is where my mother cuts the meat- fish, beef, chicken- everything. It is also where the separate tea powder, glass with blue flower patterns and sugar is kept for the house help who comes twice a week. She can take the milk powder from the green sliding cabinet inside white marble kitchen. It is kept separate because “if we let them have too much, then they will climb on our heads.”

The workers in the garden do not come to the front door. We don’t need to tell them, they know it. Sometimes, if we don’t hear them calling from the back door, they will come to the front door, only to ask us to come to the back and pour out a glass of water. We will give them water, sometimes even tang, tea in the evenings with snacks….in disposable cups, or glass glasses. “Then you call them in, and sit with them and eat in the house next time, if you have such a big problem with it.”

Opposite our house there exists a tiny shop that has all necessary emergency supplies. Everyone in the area calls it the ‘Nair kada’ (shop) “Now because you are young you feel this way. When you grow up, you will realize, there is a lot of benefit in the name. You can’t say don’t use the name.”

So funny, when you’re a Savarna, you think everyone is mean, everyone is nasty, everyone will jump on your head, because that is exactly what we would do. Sigh.