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'Comfort Me With Apples': Ambivalent Allusion in Paradise Lost
The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms
Special Issue: John Milton, European, Part 1
Paradise Lost can be read on various levels, some of which challenge or even contradict others. The main, explicit narrative from Genesis chapters 2 and 3 is shadowed by many other related stories. Some of these buried tales question or subvert the values made explicit in the dominant narrative. An attentive reader needs to be alert to the ways in which such references introduce teasing complexities. The approach of Satan to Eve in the ninth book of Paradise Lost is loaded in just that way with allusion to the literature of Greece and Rome. The poem recovers for this long and intricately constructed passage the weight of classical reference, especially in similes, that it had during the first Satanic books. Gardens, both classical and biblical, disguised or transformed serpents, and the weight of allusions that Eve is required to bear, all threaten to undermine the meanings of the overt narrative. The narrator has difficulty rescuing Eve from the allusions she attracts, or the many stories told about her.
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