Motherhood and Sin Explored in John Milton's Paradise Lost Essay

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Motherhood and Sin Explored in John Milton's Paradise Lost

There are very few representations of active motherhood in Paradise Lost, and of these, only one has a speaking role: Sin, the daughter of Satan and the mother of shapeless Death. While Milton portrays Nature and Earth as mother figures, and Eve¹s most common epithet is First Mother¹ or Mother of Mankind¹, none of these characters (or, failing that, images) is indicative of active motherhood. Eve has no children at any point in the poem, and as one of the primary conditions of motherhood is most likely that one will have had to have borne a child, she is not a viable choice for finding any representation of true motherhood. Sin is the reader¹s only model (as one of the two
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Not only is Death the offspring of an incestuous relationship (which at this point in time may be excusable, for what really are Adam and Eve¹s children, since Eve is the daughter of God and Man, (line 291, Book IX and elsewhere)), the way Sin refers to Death in her womb is interesting; she says, on lines 766 and 767 of Book II, that ³my womb conceived/ A growing burden.² While childbearing is not easy from all accounts, expecting mothers do not often go around referring to their unborn children as burdens; more commonly there is a nicer appellation, such as bundle of joy, or the like. More often, there is a sense of love and closeness that is absent here.

The account of Death¹s birth is wholly unnatural, in line with the corrupt nature of the conception, the parents, and the offspring himself. In what must be the earliest and most disgusting Caesarian section on record in literature, Death arrives in the world with a bang, or, more appropriately, a rip and shred or three, as Sin tells Satan of their son¹s birth:

....Pensive here I sat
Alone, but long I sat not, till my womb
Pregnant by thee, and now excessive grown
Prodigious motion felt and rueful throes.
At last this odious offspring whom thou seest
Thine own begotten, breaking violent way
Tore through my entrails, that with fear and pain
Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew

(Book II, lines

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