When Milton’s Adam and Eve fall in Paradise Lost, everything changes: the earth tilts, the animals begin to eat each other, Sin and Death enter into the world. The course of history for all of Adam and Eve’s children depends on that single moment. Whether their Fall is fortunate or catastrophic, it does cost them not only their beautiful paradise but also their innocence, their pure existence. That they were innocent to start with seems obvious—Milton reiterates over and over, in as many ways as possible, that Adam and Eve remain innocent until they Fall. However, in several scenes throughout the poem, Adam and Eve are rebuked, Adam by the angel Raphael and Eve by Adam. These rebukes seem irreconcilable with a state of perfect innocence. How can Adam or Eve be reprimanded for doing wrong if they, by their very natures, do everything right? If they are truly, completely innocent of all sin, how do they make so many mistakes, even before eating the forbidden fruit? A closer analysis of these rebuke scenes through the lens of Milton’s theology in De Doctrina Christiana reveals that it is indeed possible for Adam and Eve to make mistakes while maintaining their innocence because sin and error are not synonymous.
Moore, Mandy, "A Quandary of Errors: The Problem of Innocence in Paradise Lost" (2016). Undergraduate Research Awards. Paper 29.