Book 9 (For Elements of the Pastoral) – Plot Summary

Book 9 (For Elements of the Pastoral) – Plot Summary

This section summarises all the key plot points in book IX of Paradise Lost.

Plot Summary

Book IX begins with the narrator explaining the change in course the poem will take. In previous books Adam has been conversing with the angels but now, the narrator tells us, he must move on to describe a tragedy. This is the crux of the poem as it is a description of how man came to fall. The narrator compares his story to that of other epics written by Greek and Roman poets. He says that his is far greater than theirs and that the tragedy suffered by the heroes of other epics is nothing compared to that of mankind because his subject is more noble and lofty.

First we see Satan creeping into the Garden of Eden at night. Satan is envious of humans and jealous of their relationship with God that he forfeited. He explores the beauty of earth and is dismayed. He looks around for a creature to disguise himself in so that he can deceive Adam and Eve and eventually he chooses to be a serpent.

The scene changes to morning and Adam and Eve are in the garden cultivating the earth and having a discussion. We learn of their life, how much they love each other and how easy and ideal their life is in Eden. When Eve suggests they split up their work to be more efficient, Adam reminds her that they shouldn’t focus too much on labour and that their work shouldn’t be a chore, they need time to relax, make love and simply gaze at each other.

Adam becomes deeply concerned that if they work separately then they will be in danger as Eve will be unprotected by him and could be susceptible to the evil God had warned them about. After some debate, Adam agrees that absence makes the heart grow fonder and allows Eve to go off by herself. Eve leaves Adam armed with only her gardening tools and a pure heart because sin has not arrived and made physical weapons necessary yet.

Satan watches Eve as she gardens happily. He notices her beauty and her lovable qualities but is wary of her husband’s intelligence and strength. When he has established that Adam is nowhere nearby he begins to creep slowly towards Eve ready to begin his ‘fraudulent temptation.’

Eve is astonished to find a talking snake. The serpent agrees to take her to the tree that it ate from in order to be able to speak and reason like a man. Eve explains that he needn’t have bothered because the tree is forbidden from mankind by God. However, the serpent easily persuades her with knowledge of good and evil and the chance to be godlike. As it is approaching lunchtime and the fruit looks so delicious, Eve succumbs to the temptation of the serpent and eats from the forbidden tree.

Eve returns to Adam and tells him what she has done. He is horrified but, because he loves her so deeply, cannot let her go. He agrees to eat the fruit too so that they can face death together. When they have both eaten, the earth rumbles and suddenly they become full of sexual lust and can’t resist their sexual urges. When they are finished they are ashamed and cover their naked bodies.

They are no longer innocent and calm, their ‘State of Mind’ has become turbulent and full of mistrust, anger and angst as they can now see evil as well as good. Their love for one another begins to falter too as they blame each other for what happened, call each other names and, ‘Thus they in mutual accusation spent/ The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning,/ And of thir vain contest appeer’d no end.’