This paper offers a close reading of Paradise Lost IX.235-243 and explores the implications of this and related passages regarding work, leisure, and gift. As scholar Laura Knoppers explains, in Eden Adam and Eve enjoy an order of life designed for their maturity, which will eventually enable them to draw nearer to God. Leisure is integral to this order, operating as a defining and overarching mode for living, and work operates as an aspect of leisure and an arena for growing maturity and relational delight. As such, their life functions as a gift. But before transgressing God’s command, Eve reveals in conversation with Adam that the two of them can – or even must – secure their lives and safety through their work. She also articulates that their rest must be “merited” through work, and that overcoming temptation might gain them honor. Both of these ideas indicate that even before the serpent’s temptation Eve believes that work functions as a method for security, which humans may gain for themselves. Such ideas violate the economy of gift by which Creation operates, especially as demonstrated in the nature of the relationship between God and human beings. It is the givenness of creation which makes Eve’s prioritization of efficiency unproductive and a critical step toward disobedience.
"“Not to Irksome Toil, but to Delight He Made Us”: Work and Leisure as Gift in John Milton’s Paradise Lost,"
The Macksey Journal: Vol. 1
, Article 181.
Available at: https://www.mackseyjournal.org/publications/vol1/iss1/181