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Two of the most persistent themes in poetry are uncertainty and insecurity Discuss the

presentation of one or more of these themes in Paradise Lost and The Quarrel
In Paradise Lost, the Garden of Eden represents the marriage of Adam and Eve that can be
broken into and illicitly accessed because it is not secure against the advances of Satan, and
similarly, the relationship of the couple in "The Quarrel" is also subject to external forces. In
Paradise lost, the state of the marriage is left insecure and uncertain, however in The
Quarrel, we see that the insecurity and weakness of the couples predicament is overcome
and resolved by the end of the poem. And furthermore, whilst Aiken develops uncertainty in
his poem due to the lack of characterisation of his couple, Milton creates ambiguity and
uncertainty through the hypercharacterisation of his characters, which gives rise to different
interpretations of the role of Eve, and also reveals the uncertainty regarding who the tragic
hero actually is in Paradise Lost.
In Paradise lost, Milton presents the insecurity of Adam and Eves marriage, and thus of the
Garden of Eden, as a weakness that allows it to be broken into by an external foe. Milton does
this by presenting Eden as a female body susceptible to being broken into. Milton achieves
this through the ways that he describes Satan as constantly trying to enter and penetrate the
garden. He chooses the serpent in whom to enter, and in turn, it is the serpent that enters
into the insecure garden. It is perhaps symbolic that the shape of the serpent carries with it
sexual innuendos, from its phallic nature, to the way Milton describes the movements of the
snake as it is being controlled by Satan: the snake is described as erect and as a tower, and
his fawning is so successfully alluring, that into Eve his words too easy entrance won. In
Book 4, Milton describes paradisiacal Eden as a female body, with its champaign head of
steep wilderness, and thus the entrance of Satan into the garden is likened to a rape, and
Satan is compared to a wolf, whilst the garden is compared to his prey that he will
consume. Satan is in fact described as city beau, long in a populous city pent who
approaches the maiden that is Eve, and in Book 2, hell is described as a city of
pandemonium: here Milton plays on pastoral conventions to show how the city encroaches
upon and threatens the rural paradise that is the marriage and conjugal consummation of
Adam and Eve, and that the garden is powerless to such intrusions. Perhaps this could reveal
further insight to the political views of Milton. If Milton believed that the city was corrupt
and caused the degradation of the countryside, then the corruption of Eden and of the
marriage and harmony between Adam and Eve could be in line with what he could view as
the corruption of England through the Restoration, thus in Miltons eyes, it is clear that the
monarchy is a blasphemous body that invades the perfect state, in the same way as Satan is
the entity that corrupts their perfect marriage. Thus Milton presents marriage as a paradisiacal
garden or a body, and through his descriptions of the violation of this body by Satan, he
foreshadows the fact that the marriage of Adam and Eve will also be corrupted, and that Eves
body will fall helpless to the whims of Satan and his seduction. Similarly, in "the Quarrel" we
also see the nature of the relationship of the couple as something that is subject to the whims
of external forces: Aiken talks of the "rain", the "darkness", and the "stillness that deepens"
(creating the impression of submersion and drowning), and also the "music" from the
"neighbouring room", which perhaps suggests that the relationship is weak, uncertain and
transient because it can be affected by external factors. He also comments on the "rain" as
"arpeggios against their hearstrings", indicating perhaps the extreme sense of insecurity felt,
because it is almost as if they are left bare and vulnerable to the wrath of nature's elements:
this also parallels the storm in Paradise lost, and Adam and Eve's physical nakedness. Thus,
both Milton and Aiken present uncertainty and insecurity of relationships in that they can be
altered by external factors outside their control.
In "The Quarrel", it is clear that the relationship between the couple moves from a state of
insecurity and instability to a state of certainty and strength. The quarrel potentially could
parallel the post-lapsarian situation of Paradise Lost. The speaker talks of his partner's "tragic

beauty", and comments how she is a "flower torn by a sparrow". This parallels how Eve was
also described as a flower who was subsequently violated, and thus Aiken is able to show how
perhaps the beauty of the woman was her insecurity and weakness, which allowed her to end
up in such a vulnerable situation that she was destroyed and ripped by a sparrow. The
relationship of the couple is initially full of insecurity, despair and lack of hope. Aiken
describes the couple as being "disheartened", "downcast", and describes the couple's
relationship as "hopeless", which explores the lack of certainty and faith that things can work
out. We as the readers are also uncertain about what will transpire between the couple: and the
"deepen[ing]" "stillness" of the room, as well as the fact that nothing "stirred" also creates an
atmosphere of uncertainty and suspense, as if the poem is building up momentum to a
crescendo, which is further exemplified by the rhythm of the poem. The use of all the
commas, as well as very short phrases separated by commas, creates a quickening urgency,
and the reader is left uncertain about what the climax of the poem will be. Furthermore, the
use of the word "suddenly" launches us head first into this uncertain relationship that changes
by the second, and the fact that the poet repeats the same phrase to open several lines of the
poem also builds this sense of change. The lines of the 3rd and 4th verse begin with "it was
then,when ", "when", "when", "it was then, that suddenly", which also gives the sense of an
insecure marriage: insecure not because it is weak and because there has been a quarrel, but
also insecure because of the fact that the state of the relationship is not fixed. Nevertheless,
the insecurity (weakness) of the relationship is resolved, as it is juxtaposed with the regaining
of stability and strength that occurs at the end of the poem, when the couple realises that their
argument is only making them weak (the "quarrel became absurd" to them), and they "rose to
the angelic voices of the music" and "kissed" in a symbol of unity and security. But this state
of resolution can only be reached through the precarious nature of their quarrel coming to the
surface: "the brave quartet breaking out of the stillness" parallels the "heart of life that
sings when all hope is lost" : perhaps then brave quartet of the music is not symbolic of an
external force, as I argued earlier, but of the underlying forces of love that bind the two
partners together in relationship, showing that their love for each other is too strong and
overcomes their distance, thus demonstrating how in coming together, the couple can
eradicate the state of insecurity of the quarrel and regain stability.
This contrasts directly to what occurs in Paradise Lost, because it seems that the unity of
Adam and Eve doesnt rid insecurity: it is what consolidates the insecurity (even though it is
their parting that caused insecurity in the first place due to how Eve's decision to leave means
she can be subjected to the whims of the serpent. It could be argued alternatively that it is bad
that Adam refused to let Eve go and perform her duty to the garden and to their marriage, and
neglected his puritan work ethic, which means that the garden cannot be luxurious in
restraint: rather its wanton growth derides and it tends to wildness because they are not
doing enough work to ensure that the garden remains neat and in order. However, I do not feel
this to be correct, as we can tell that Milton is critical of the fact that Adam letting Eve go at
the start was a mistake, because he didnt allow her to be "luxurious in restraint"- because
Adam did not control her, and let her go she to "wanton growth derides".) Perhaps Milton was
influenced by The Homily on the state of matrimony, which says that when the wives be
stubborn, their husbands are compelled to flee, but Adam contradicts this, saying who
guards her or who with her the worst endures. According to John Miltons divorce tracks a
marriage should be allowed to end if there is spousal incompatibility. When Milton tried to
divorce his first wife (who left him), he could not because he was not allowed to do so. Thus,
Milton views it as a great fault that Adam did not choose to leave Eve and thus terminate their
marriage, and this is symbolic of the injustice he felt that he could not end his own marriage.
C.S. Lewis also argues a similar attitude regarding their marriage, which is that Adam fell out
of uxoriousness: excessive or submissive fondness for ones wife, which Milton presents as
an insecurity or a weakness. When Eve comes back, Adam, who is waiting desirous her
return, had wove of choicest flowers a garland. Since this is a pastoral epic, the allusions to
classical mythology cannot be a coincidence. Adam is thus like Penelope in the Odyssey who
is waiting for Odysseus: he is emasculated through his parallels to a woman, because he

allowed his wife to wander off like an adventurer or like a hero from Greek mythology, and
because he allowed these gender roles to become inverted. as Clearly, as the couple in the
quarrel do, Adam feels some sort of bond to Eve that transcends what he feels are his
husbandly duties, as he feels "the link of nature draw him", as the couple are drawn by the
music in the poem, which "transcends" their grief. Thus Milton clearly disapproves of the fact
that Adam decides to fall with Eve, because Adams actions and declaration "from thy state
mine shall never be parted" completes the fall, and consolidates the insecurity and weakness
that has corrupted the garden of Eden. The insecurity of Adam and Eve's marriage is
emphasised by allusions to other literary forms: restoration comedy plays. Adam has truly
been made a fool of after the couple engage in post-lapsarian sex: instead of Eve being
grateful for the fact that Adam fell with her, she blames him for being "too facile" and says
that he should have been more commanding and authoritative. (Milton also blames his for
being toodomestic and mild, characteristics which contradict the Homily, which says that
the husband head of woman and must have her in thy power and will). The ridiculing of
the male is a key feature in Restoration Comedy, which Milton viewed as degenerative and
morally decadent. Thus by alluding to an art form he finds morally repulsive, in which men
are emasculated by women, Milton emphasises his distaste with Adams lack of masculinity
and his failed husbandry, and that his "overtrusting" in women was his insecurity. Leave not
the faithful side that gave thee being, but then says I feel the link of nature draw meand
from thy state mine shall never be parted. Here it is clear that in the first quote, Adam views
Eve as a possession that is part of him, but in the second quote, he views himself as part of
her, thus showing how he has been emasculated. Through this ambiguity, Milton is thus able
to do something very radical for his time: to expose that men, not just women, are subject to
insecurities and weaknesses. Thus, the relationship in the poem "The Quarrel" moves from a
state of insecurity to a state of certainty and unity, which contrasts the insecurity in Paradise
Lost, as it is partially consolidated by Adam's failed husbandry in his decision to maintain
unity, and this insecurity also remains unresolved: Milton ends book 9 saying that there
"appeared no end" to their argument, which brings about further uncertainty on behalf of the
characters: the characters do not know what will happen to them (ironic because we do),
which parallels also the unknown and uncertain quality of the higher knowledge Eve sought.
Furthermore, in the Quarrel, uncertainty is created in the lack of characterisation of the
characters. Aiken describes how a "lover quarrelled with a lover", and whilst could assume
that this relationship refers to the relationship between a man and a woman, there is nothing to
suggest that it is not a same sex relationship, especially when we consider that this poem was
written in the mid 20th century, and would therefore classify as contemporary. The sense of
immediacy also creates universality in the sense that whilst the use of "we" and "your" is very
intimate, it also distances us from this particular relationship as we realise that this poem
could be a description of any relationship. The characters are also not named, and the
reference to "angelic voices" also takes this theme of uncertainty further, as it is said that
angels are genderless. The couple also does not speak, and there is no dialogue : they are
"silent" and "in the quiet", the room is "still", a leaf falls "silently", and the couple kiss
"without a word". Like the couple, who sit and contemplate their argument in silence, so to
the reader is meant to sit and contemplate in silence about all the possible specific scenarios
that the poet could be describing: we are meant to revel in the uncertainty, as this poem
appears to be a universal celebration of the fact that relationship insecurities can be resolved.
This contrasts directly with what Milton achieves in Paradise lost: his authorial interjections,
his use of dialogue and his vivid characterisation of Eve could potentially give rise to
contradictory interpretations of her character, and also to the question of who is the tragic
hero: Milton's paradise lost does therefore seem to allow for "negative capability" and
uncertainty. As I have discussed, Milton effectively portrays to us the penetration of the
Garden of Eden through its characterisation as a female body, and this presages the fact that
Eve too is insecure and weak, and will become fallen and "wanton". However, Milton's
attitude to Eve's decision to leave Adam, we could argue, is uncertain in the sense that he

could both condemn and praise her. Diane K Mccolley seems to argue that Eve's decision to
withdraw from Adam is in fact justifiable, because she doesnt want to live under Satans
tyranny, and because she is seeking the complex harmony of authentic individuality.
However, it could be argued that is unlikely that Milton views Eves transgression of typical
marriage and gender roles as something admirable: after all, Milton was left by his first wife,
and this therefore shows that he views her breaking free from Adam as an insecurity, and not
as something commendable. Furthermore, there is also uncertainty as to whether Milton
regards Eve as being a victim of Satan's deceit, or an active and manipulative agent in the fall.
Eve is presented as a night wanderer who is beguiled and deceived by Satans light, thus
showing Eve is potentially not the agent in the fall, but rather a powerless body that is acted
upon. Furthermore, this is supported by the further allusions Milton makes to pastoral poetry,
and also to classical mythology. In Book 4, Milton talks of how 'Prosepin', 'herself a fairer
flower' was 'gathered' and taken by Hades, and this mirrors the description of Eve as a 'fair
unsupported flower' and allusions to 'Proserpina' in Book 9. The description of Eve as a
'flower' suggests her vulnerability and fragility, because she can be snatched up, as was
Proserpina by Hades, and be raped. Milton plays on pastoral poetry further because he
characterises Eve as 'Delia', a virginal huntress goddess who is seduced by an animal, as
Pomona, a goddess who flees Vertumnus, and as a 'nymph'. These all foreshadow the fact that
Eve will be seduced by external factors, and her characterisation as a nymph indicates that she
is susceptible to deception, and also to sexual corruption. Furthermore, the fact that Satan
flatters Eve in the manner of a courtly lover, putting her on a pedestal and calling her Queen
of the Universe, sovreign mistress and resplendent Eve is significant, because
characteristics typical of a courtly lover are that their desires remain unfulfilled, but Milton
subverts the stock character of a courtly lover through presenting Satan as a tempter who
ultimately manages to get what he wants: thus Satans rape or violation of Eve is even more
surprising from the unsuspecting courtly lover of the serpent, something which perhaps
throws Eve off, highlighting her vulnerability further. However, Milton also seems to blame
Eve through implicitly suggesting that Eve was an active agent in the fall. It could be argued
that Eves transgression of typical gender roles of the time, as well as her satanic desire for
higher knowledge, is what causes the insecurity of Adam and Eves marriage, and thus their
fall: thus in showing this, Milton could be suggesting a wider point pertaining to the social
context of the 17th century: that a womans place in marriage is to be subservient and meek.
Whilst it is possible that Eves lack of physical protection, as she leaves the garden, is
symbolic of her insecurity and vulnerability to external forces, the fact that she is armed with
tools such as 'art' is symbolic of a fall because the arts of civilisation are the result of a fall,
and here Milton could be making classical allusions to when Prometheus created the art of
fire to transgress the will of the Gods. Therefore, this could allude to the fact that Eve
willingly "withdrew" her hand from Adams and actively goes on a search for higher
knowledge with "art", a symbol of higher knowledge. "Reach then, and freely taste, the
serpent cries, ironic because as much as we as readers blame the serpent for the fall, Milton
wants to remind us that Eve chose to break Gods word, and that there was some agency: she
could control her weakness if she wanted to. Eve also comments on her flight and high
exaltation, which shows that she escape patriarchal oppression, and rise in the Great Chain
of Being by going higher. In Book 9, she thinks less attributed to her faith sincere, showing
how she thinks she deserves more, and this thus parallels her with Satan, who went out of his
place in the Great Chain of Being, and who as a result ended up lower down than he initially
started as. Thus Milton could be suggesting that Eve has wrongfully subverted her gender
boundaries, a wrongness that has the same magnitude as subverting the Great Chain of Being
and questioning God: and that she should have remained meek and subservient in marriage.
Eve questions God as Satan does in book 4 , when he says can it be sin to know?, by saying
what forbids he but to know?: the parallels are clear, and it seems to be evident that Eve
wants to question the rules that God has laid out for her: she wants to be as "the gods who all
things know". Despite the fact that Eve's sexualisation could be presented as vulnerability, it
could also give her power and agency: Eve "upstays" and "stoops to support" the "drooping
unsustained flowers", and this is a powerful sexual innuendo. Milton also describes Eve as

having spoken to Adam with sweet austere composure: here, through Miltons authorial
interjections, we understand that her language is performative like Satans, which displays her
as the ultimate temptress, tempting Adam to break his gender roles by breaking hers: she
flouts and exploits her sexuality in a manipulative manner to get what she wants. Similarly,
Satan's role as a character is ambiguous and uncertain. Is Satan the tragic hero, or the evil
villain? Or is it Adam that is the tragic hero? This is uncertain. Obviously, Milton disagrees
with the fall, and therefore would disagree with the serpent as it orchestrated the fall: Milton
described Satan as the "Enemy of Mankind" and as a "hellish" "foe", and says "back to the
thicket slunk the guilty serpent", showing Satan as an evil coward. However, specifically
pertaining to the genre of epic poetry, Satan could be seen as the tragic hero of the epic, and
certainly the Romantic Movement entertained this idea. Milton spends a lot of Paradise Lost
(other than book 9) talking about Satan's battles against God, and about how he is head of the
fallen angels in hell who lead a rebellion against God. Indeed Satan has showed some remorse
in previous books, and we do see Satan's evil falter in Book 9 in his dialogue: he asks of
himself "with what sweet compulsion thus transported to forget what hither brought us?"
when he sees Eve, which perhaps gives him a human side, and shows his hatred and desire to
"contend" with the Gods as a fatal flaw (or hamartia), which he cannot overcome, and such a
quality is characteristic of a tragic hero. All the labyrinthine imagery that Milton uses to
describe Satan and his movements in the snake further reveal the uncertainty. Satans "rising
folds" and "circular spires" give a sense of something hidden, and of the unknown, whilst the
epic simile which describes Satan as a "skilful steersman" who "curls" and directs the
movement of his ship further creates parallels to the heroes of Greek Mythology, such as
Odysseus, who had to face the wrath of Poseidon as he travelled in the ocean. Furthermore, it
is worth considering that perhaps Satan is a metaphor for Milton, and God a metaphor for the
monarchy (since we know that Milton was completely against the divine right of Kings and
viewed it as blasphemy). The fall thus would represent Milton managing to oust the
monarchy, but ultimately, the end of the whole of Paradise Lost, God's 'injust' tyranny is
reinstated (which represents the restoration of the Monarchy) and Satan is expelled back to
Hell ( Milton goes into hiding to evade arrest). Thus Milton is also a failed tragic hero, and
his role as one is further highlighted by the fact that he invokes a muse. However, it is
uncertain if this interpretation is correct, as Adam could also be the tragic hero.