ABSTRACT

The meal in the Garden shared by Raphael, Adam, and Eve is a symbol of hospitality, of an ideal relationship between man and angel. Its abundance reveals God's goodness, while its simplicity underlines man's innocence. The fruits of the earth which compose it contrast with man's postlapsarian diet. It represents the close ties before the fall between heaven and earth, God and man. Though not “sacramental,” it is a “solemnity” that reinforces these ties. It reflects the heavenly feasts described by Raphael, symbolizing the beatific state, up to which man one day will be drawn. Because it has these meanings, Milton uses the meal with Raphael as a symbol of all that is lost when he changes his notes to “tragic.” The value of what the meal stands for is seen most clearly from the vantage point of the last books, and especially in the contrast between Raphael's visit and Michael's.

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