Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Scales in the Sky

As Satan prepares to fight Gabriel when he is discovered in Paradise, God causes the image of a pair of golden scales to appear in the sky. On one side of the scales, he puts the consequences of Satan’s running away, and on the other he puts the consequences of Satan’s staying and fighting with Gabriel. The side that shows him staying and fighting flies up, signifying its lightness and worthlessness. These scales symbolize the fact that God and Satan are not truly on opposite sides of a struggle—God is all-powerful, and Satan and Gabriel both derive all of their power from Him. God’s scales force Satan to realize the futility of taking arms against one of God’s angels again.

Adam’s Wreath

The wreath that Adam makes as he and Eve work separately in Book IX is symbolic in several ways. First, it represents his love for her and his attraction to her. But as he is about to give the wreath to her, his shock in noticing that she has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge makes him drop it to the ground. His dropping of the wreath symbolizes that his love and attraction to Eve is falling away. His image of her as a spiritual companion has been shattered completely, as he realizes her fallen state. The fallen wreath represents the loss of pure love.


One of the most iconic images throughout all of literature is Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Fruit often appears in myth, poetry, or fairy tales as a representation of indulgence of forbidden acts, and here, the reader sees the forbidden fruit as the ultimate turnkey toward a flesh-based human existence. Celestial beings like God the Father and Satan, to whom earthly pleasures have no bearing, can utilize the fruit as a boundary or a temptation, but only Adam and Eve are uniquely designed to fall prey to its power. As soon as the pair eats from the Tree of Knowledge, they break free from the ignorance that blinded them to their bodily functions and existence, and immediately engage in acts of sexual pleasure.

While Satan uses flattery and intellectual manipulation as a means of coercing Eve, a much simpler aspect ultimately wins her over: a desire for the fruit itself. Eve praises the tenderness and exquisite perfection of the fruit to the point where she reaches a near maddening desire to consume it. It’s notable that in an epic poem laden with divine beings, the war for humanity hinges partially on hunger and a very human desire to indulge in something so exquisite. 

The deadly sins of gluttony and lust dovetail precisely with the fruits of the Garden of Eden. This utopian innocence exists only while Adam and Eve are cloaked in ignorance. Once awake, however, the full array of possibilities reveal themselves. Inherent in the imagery of the garden is a sexual undercurrent; the pollination, budding seeds, and fleshy fruits speak to a hunger both literal and figurative. It stands to reason that Eve’s desire is piqued so quickly because she has been previously denied such sustenance, let alone the knowledge that she was being denied at all. Giving into the yearning of immediate, base, and sensual desires cements Adam and Eve’s entryway into a human existence, in the most human way possible.