Adam in Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Adam in "Paradise Lost": Fate's Ruler - and Subject

A central problem in John Milton's "Paradise Lost" in the theological issue of free will versus fate, a traditionally much-debated question. Free will is the condition of having control or direction over fate or destiny; the individual shapes his life and future through his actions. The opposing view, complete lack of free will (made famous by John Calvin), is predestination, which expresses the idea that our futures have been foreseen long before our existences, so our actions are preordained, and our paths chosen for us. Milton's presentation of the character Adam wrestles with these ideas around free will throughout Paradise Lost; while he does in fact eat the apple of his own
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Calvin states that God has already planned the fates and actions of all men, and their deeds foreordained. The opposing view, that man has free will, is therefore the opposite; man decides his own fate, his actions shape the course of his singularly individual existence. Which, then, does Adam represent in "Paradise Lost"? We first meet Adam in depth in Book V, where Eve awakens from her disturbing dream of temptation and Adam must assuage her fears and anxiety over such an unusual and foreboding vision. Here Adam states explicitly, in his argument against the danger of the dream, that it is not a prediction of things to happen because "she still has reason to control her actions." His exact words, on lines 116 to 121:

But with addition strange; yet be not sad. Evil into the mind of God or Man May come and go, so unapprov'd, and leave No spot or blame behind: Which gives me hope That what in sleep thou didst abhorr to dream, Waking thou never wilt consent to do.

With this, Adam plainly asserts that human consent has priority over any preconceived plan. He could have stated that the dream meant nothing because God did not conceive of that in His plan -- but instead he comments on the necessity to act in choosing a moral stance.