Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #140 - Paradise Lost

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Paradise Lost by John Milton. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List.

I had personally dreaded reading Paradise Lost, simply because most of the epic poetry on the list becomes dull and wearisome rather quickly, and pretty hard to understand through most of it. I was pleasantly surprised by Paradise Lost, at least in the beginning. The story is broken up into 12 Books, with each book lasting about 30 pages or so. My version of the book had illustrations by Gustave Doré, which gave the narrative a bit of a break and helped with the understanding quite a bit. However, the most import part aspect of the reading, was the fact that Milton provided a summary of at the beginning of each Book. That way the reader could more enjoy the prose instead of getting mired down in the text trying to figure out where the story is going (or even what was happening or where you were in the narrative). The story of Paradise Lost is not simply the telling of how Adam and Eve got kicked out of Eden. Instead it recounts everything that happened from the fall of Satan, to giving a "vision" of the future through the birth of Jesus. My favorite part of the book had to be the first half, where Satan is seen as a rather tragic character. Milton perfectly weaves in Greek and Roman mythology, making this story feel much more mythical than it is often depicted. However, the story takes a steep decline once we get to the point where God is chastising Adam and Eve. Eventually taking us to where Adam is shown a vision of the future (essentially the rest of the Bible) and he becomes much more content with being cast out into the world. I understand that this is based on the Bible, making the story source hard to debate, but the degree of punishment seems awfully petty. It's all based on Adam and Even breaking the rules and being told "...that to obey is best..." and women are essentially too weak to be trusted to do much. It gets to be a bit much by the end. Overall, the prose was fun to read and the first half of the story was great (as a mythology lover myself), but by the end, I was done, and getting more and more annoyed as it dragged on.

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