April 22, 2010

It's not perfect.

Of course there are a million theories and things we'd love to say about LOST, but we couldn't include everything and while we were writing, we time traveled back to 1974 and by the time we got back to 2010, it was time to turn in the paper.  But, if you want to read our LOST/Milton's Paradise Lost paper for an upper division English class, go ahead and continue.
I can't get the jump break to work, so continue here or click the title of this post.
(fan art from Little Box Of Ideas)

Chrisi Brockbank, Sarah Heywood, and Rachel Slough

English 4640

22 April 2010

Lost Paradise: Deciphering the Dark Materials

Written nearly three and a half centuries ago, John Milton’s Paradise Lost continues to inspire writers such as Philip Pullman, who even went so far as to name his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials after line 916 in Book 2: “But all these in their pregnant causes mixed / Confus’dly, and which thus must ever fight, / Unless the almighty maker them ordain / His dark materials to create more worlds.” Like Pullman, American television and film producer J.J. Abrams was also inspired by Paradise Lost, creating a world with the popular television series Lost. From the landscape of the island and the depiction of the characters to the Biblical symbolism, the show exuberates Milton’s masterpiece.

Like the audience of Milton’s epic poem, J.J. Abrams fans partake of Lost lore in a eucharistic manner. Webster’s dictionary defines anamnesis as “a recalling to mind” or “reminiscence.” The partaking in the Eucharist (i.e. the Sacrament or Holy Communion), recalls Christ’s last supper with his disciples, exemplifying anamnesis. When a soul becomes embodied in flesh and bones, it forgets everything experienced and learned in its previous state of being. Knowledge recovered by anamnesis is the only knowledge worth knowing because it reconnects us to spiritual, eternal realms. John Milton wrote Paradise Lost as a eucharistic form of anamnesis. In “’The Copious Matter of My Song’”: A Study of Theology and Rhetoric in Milton’s Paradise Lost and 23rd Sonnet”, Nicholas Wallerstein exerts that Milton allows for a highly ritualized interaction between author and audience, between audience and theme, and between audience and meaning:

It is through Milton’s use of form in the angelic chorus—grafting onto the hymn the form of eucharistic prayer—that Milton’s audience is allowed to share in the commemorative activity in which Milton and the angels are engaging. Milton’s particular use of form insists that an audience come to the text in a particular way. As the audience reads the angelic chorus, the audience too takes part in the anaphora. Through the particular use of form, Milton is able to guide reader participation, reader experience. (47)

In Book 10 of Paradise Lost, the narrator addresses the consequences of not remembering: “For still they knew, and ought to have still remember’d / The high Injunction not to taste that Fruit, / Whoever tempted; which they not obeying, / Incurr’d, what could they less, the penaltie, / And manifold in sin, deserv’d to fall” (12-16). A pattern appears, illustrating the harmful consequences of forgetting. Milton, highly aware of the fact that Adam and Eve will fail to remember, makes this failure to remember a crucial and critical force in the poem.

In most stories about divine forces and prying in human affairs, the storyteller does the audience a favor by establishing the angels, demons, gods, and devils as givens. We are not meant to question their existence; their morality and motives are clear. Lost doesn’t do any of this for the audience. Its potential gods and monsters are paradoxical, untrustworthy, and hard to decipher. We don’t understand their plans or purposes.

Lost Recap

Lost follows the lives of plane crash survivors on a mysterious tropical island, after a passenger jet (Oceanic 815) flying between Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, California crashes somewhere in the South Pacific. Each episode usually features a primary storyline on the island as well as a secondary storyline from a different point in a character's life, or other time-related plot shifts. In season one, the survivors work together to stay alive. Their survival is threatened by mysterious happenings such as an unseen creature that roams the jungle and the island's inhabitants known as the “Others”.

In Season Two, the story continues 45 days after the crash, focusing on the growing tension between the survivors and the Others. New characters are introduced, including the tail-section survivors and other island inhabitants. The hatch, which was found in season one, is explored and the existence of the DHARMA Initiative (a scientific project whose goal was to manipulate scientific laws) is revealed.

Season Three continues 67 days after the crash. New crash survivors and Others are introduced as the crash survivors learn about the Others and their history on the island. A war between the Others and the survivors reaches a critical stage when the survivors make contact with a rescue team.

Season Four focuses on the survivors dealing with the arrival of people from a freighter that has come to the Island, some of whom do not act friendly toward the survivors, while the survivors, because of their experiences with the Others, have become less than trusting. The season ends with the escape of the Oceanic Six, so named for their claim that they were the only ones to have survived the crash and the island.

Season Five follows two timelines. The first takes place on the island where the remaining survivors erratically jump forward and backward through time until they are finally stranded with the DHARMA Initiative in 1974. The second continues the original timeline, which takes place off the island by following the Oceanic Six and what happens in their lives to take them back to the island.

Season Six, the last season that has yet to come to its conclusion, follows two timelines, each an outcome of the detonation of a hydrogen bomb in the previous season finale. In the first timeline, referred to as "flash sideways", Oceanic Flight 815 never crashes. In the second, the survivors return to the present day and must deal with the death of Jacob, whose death was orchestrated by the mysterious Man in Black, the Smoke Monster. Though each season merits inspection for themes, motifs, and parallels to Milton’s epic poem, we will focus mainly on the sixth and final season of Lost.

The Argument

Milton’s epic concerns the Christian story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose, stated in Book 1, is to “justify the ways of God to men” (2) and elucidate the conflict between God’s eternal foresight and free will. Milton incorporates Paganism, classical Greek references, and Christianity within the poem. It deals with diverse topics from marriage, politics (Milton was politically active during the time of the English Civil War), monarchy, and grapples with many difficult theological issues, including fate, predestination, the Trinity, and the introduction of sin and death into the world, as well as angels, fallen angels, Satan and the war in heaven. Milton draws on his knowledge of languages, and diverse sources- primarily Genesis, much of the New Testament, the deuterncanonical Book of Enoch, and many other parts of the Old Testament. This epic is generally considered one of the greatest works in the English language.

Lost is a mirror image, or second pass at what occurred in the Garden of Eden. With the sixth season coming to a close, there are more signs than ever alluding to the fact that the geographical location in Lost is a very similar interpretation of Milton’s Garden of Eden. The Island, or “this God Forsaken rock” as Fake Locke, the character most similar to Milton’s Satan (always depicted wearing black), stated in episode 14 of Season Six, is the actual garden of Eden. After the Fall of Man (when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God), the Garden was deserted. The Bible does not state what happened to the Garden except that an angel was left to guard it. In this paper, we theorize that the Garden became the Island, and remained a spiritual connection to the spiritual world. In Book 11, we read, “…then shall this Mount / Of Paradise by might of Waves be moovd / Out of his place… / Down the great River to the op’ning Gulf, / And there take root an Iland salt and bare” (829-834). The word “Eden” means spot, moment, presence, open door. So, the Garden of Eden was the spot for the moment where the presence of God provided an open door to heaven, where heaven met earth. As viewers know, there is a spiritual world connected to the Island on Lost. Jacob, a man on the Island who seems to have an abundance of knowledge about the Island and its inhabitants, is named for Jacob’s ladder, another clue to this connection since Jacob’s ladder was another connection between heaven and earth.

Character Parallels

Questions immediately arise: who/what is Jacob? Who/what is the Man in Black (who appears in the body of a character named John Locke after Locke dies)? What is the islands connection with the Garden of Eden? We must first begin with Jacob. It appears that Jacob has many roles in the show but can most be identified with Good, Abel, and Anubis. For starters, we believe that Jacob was once a man. We know from a recent episode that Jacob has been one the Island for several centuries, maybe longer. In fact, there is a very real possibility that he was once “Abel”, the shepherd son of Adam and Eve, killed by his brother in the first murder of mankind. As a spirit, we believe that Abel/Jacob became the guardian of heaven/underworld, i.e. he became Anubis.

Anubis watches over the mummification process to ensure that it happens properly. He conducts the souls through the underworld, testing their knowledge of the gods and their faith. He places their heart on the Scales of Justice during the Judging of the Heart, and he feeds the souls of the wicked people to Ammit, the female demon whose heart-consumption causes the second death of the souls whose hearts she eats. The apocryphal Biblical text says that Abel now resides in a “netherworld,” commissioned with judging the righteous and the sinners in all of creation. In the case of Lost, it appears that Jacob/Abel/Anubis acts as a judge that does not allow the spirits of those who have chosen evil to move onto the afterlife. This is evident by Michael’s spirit, who is basically trapped on the island due to his actions, as seen in an episode in Season Six, “Everybody Loves Hurley”, where Michel’s character states, “we [the spirits/whispers] are the ones that can’t move.”

The Man in Black also falls into this category as well. We believe that the Man in Black (MIB), may once have been “Cain”, and committed the first murder. He was “once a man” and knows how it is to “feel, joy, anger, fear, and experience betrayal”, and also claims that he knows what it is to, “lose someone you love”, as he stated to Sawyer in the episode, “The Substitute” in Season Six. By choosing evil, Cain brought evil into his soul. It is almost as if he became “infected” himself, and in a way became the vessel of Satan. Punished to wander the world as an immortal entity because he murdered his brother, Cain received a mark from God, “lest any finding him should kill him” (Gen. 4:15). MIB’s curse is being immortally Earth-bound, dehumanizing him in that he has the ability to shape-shift and convert into black smoke. A physical scar over MIB/Fake Locke’s right eye also marks him as a Cain figure. MIB leads the “Losties” (we’ll call them the survivors) towards a “better reality” in the same way Satan did with Adam and Eve and the apple; he promises them the one thing they desire the most, and in return they “take a bite of the apple”.

We come to find that MIB also takes the form of the dreaded smoke monster, which is very similar to a serpent, the form that Satan took in the Garden of Eden: “[W]ith inspection deep
 / Consider'd every Creature, which of all 
/ Most opportune might serve his Wiles, and found / 
The Serpent suttlest Beast of all the Field. / 
Him after long debate, irresolute
 / Of thoughts revolv'd, his final sentence chose / 
Fit Vessel, fittest Imp of fraud, in whom 
/ To enter, and his dark suggestions hide” (9.83-90). This verse lends support to the view that of the serpent being Satan himself, which helps to explain why Eve was not surprised to be spoken to by the serpent; it was not a talking snake, but a beautiful and intelligent (yet evil) angelic being.

The Island and the Garden of Eden

This ultimately means that the island represents the Garden of Eden, and the “candidates” (meaning the people on the Island who could possibly become “watchers of the island”, taking over for Jacob) are representative of Adam and Eve, who were also the “candidates” for humanity. After discovering their disobedience, God banished the Adam and Eve from the garden in order to deny them access to the Tree of Life, the fruit of which would give them immortality. A couple times in the Lost series, a very large tree appears, possibly representing the Tree of Life. It was shown in the episode from Season Six called “Ab Aeterno” (which translates as “since the beginning of time” in Latin), as the place where Richard (who later becomes Jacob’s “ambassador”) buries his wife’s cross and where he later digs it back up. In addition, the Tree of Life is linked to immortality, making the fact that Richard comes into contact with the tree significant in that he becomes immortal after burying the cross by the tree.

Another example of the Garden/Island parallel presents itself when MIB approaches Sun, one of the survivors, as she tends to the garden she planted back in Season One. He tells her he has found her husband, Jin, and that he can take her to him if she takes his extended hand and joins him. As one of the candidates to take over Jacob’s positions as guardian of the island, MIB considers Sun a threat. As a Satan archetype, MIB attempts to persuade Sun as she tends to her garden, just as Satan, threatened by this new race of Men, tempted Eve as she went about her duties in the Garden of Eden. Later in the same episode, Jack, presumably another “good” candidate, takes a bite out of a tomato, fruit grown in Sun’s garden. Jack extends his hand to Sun for her to follow him, and she takes it. Interestingly, in a following episode called “the Last Recruit,” Sawyer (Jack’s brotherly rival) partakes in flirty banter with their common love interest, Kate as he eats an apple, even offering it to Kate at one point. Along with the many fruit references, couple pairs and opposites usually referring to Adam and Eve are represented in almost every episode.

From Milton’s Paradise Lost the angel Michael approaches Adam after his fall from grace and describes the future of mankind. In his description of the great floods (from the Noah and the Ark tale) he describes what will happen to the Garden of Eden, as referenced early in this paper: that Paradise will be moved by mighty waves and pushed out into the sea to become an island, “To teach thee that God attributes to place / No sanctitie, if none be thither brought / By Men who there frequent, or therein dwell. (11.828-838) It seems that in Milton’s epic poem, Michael tells Adam that the Garden of Eden will become an island. Interestingly, in the episode “Adam and Eve” we learn that there are two skeletons that the survivors of Oceanic 815 name Adam and Eve.

Another comparable aspect between the Island and the Garden is illustrated in the episode “Ab Aeterno.” Jacob explains to Richard that the Island is like a bottle of wine. He explains that the wine represents evil, and that it needs to be contained by the bottle, otherwise "it would spread." He explains that the cork represents the Island, holding the darkness where it belongs. At the end of the episode, Jacob gives the bottle to MIB, who smashes it against a log, spilling the wine. This metaphor compares to when Satan succeeds in getting Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit and the Gates of Hell are opened, releasing Sin and Death upon the Earth. The bottle was broken, and evil spreads.

The Candidate’s Roles

MIB wants the candidates to go with him, and this could be for one of two reasons that we can think of: One, he takes them with him off the island to ensure that they cannot fulfill the role of taking Jacob’s place. Two, he takes them with him because they act as a time constant so that he can actually leave the island when he flies off-the same idea as when they needed to have everyone on the Ajira Flight-perhaps because without them as “time constants”, they would not have flashed to the 1970’s/Dharma Initiative like they did. We believe the role of the candidates is similar to the role that existed for Adam and Eve. They are left with choices that may impact the fate of humanity. Each of them has special abilities and places a special role, but in the end, their choices (good or evil) and actions will lead to a result that will either be the same as Adam and Eve’s (humanity fails), or the opposite (humanity succeeds).

Fate Versus Free Will

Though early on in the series Locke claims to have little belief in the supernatural, he suggests that there was a purpose behind the crash, asking Jack to consider the possibility that everything happens for a reason. He tells Jack that each character was brought to the island for a reason, that the island chose each of them to come, and that it was their destiny. Later in the series it is revealed that Jacob had intervened in many of the characters' lives in the past, suggesting that Locke may have been right. After discovering Jacob's lighthouse in Season Six, Jack comes to believe Locke and that Jacob brought him to the Island for a purpose. Jacob often refers to choice and free will. He tells Hurley that he has a choice about whether to return to the Island. Jacob tells Ben that he always has a choice. On the other hand, Jacob’s intervention in peoples’ lives could also represent manipulation. MIB tells Sawyer that Jacob “manipulated you,” and that he, “pulled your strings like you were a puppet. And as a result, choices you thought were made were never really choices at all" ("The Substitute"). Jacob himself tells Jack that a trapped candy bar in a vending machine only needs a little push, indicating that Jacob manipulates these characters, even in a small way.

In class, we discussed the idea of Fate versus Free Will, and whether or not God really allowed for free will as he claimed, or if he was more of a puppet master, pulling the strings to orchestrate what happened. In Book 3, lines 98 through 128, God explains to Jesus that he created man “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall,” and that he will not force any being to “stand” or be constant in their obedience to him because if he forces his creations to obey and follow him, “[W]hat praise could they receive? / What pleasure I from such obedience paid, / When Will and Reason (Reason also is choice) / Useless and vain, of freedom both despoild.” He says that humans cannot “justly accuse / Thir maker, or thir making, or thir Fate, / As if predestination over-rul’d / Thir will,” because if predestination could overrule a human's fate, free will would not exsist: “I formd them free, and free they must remain.” However, throughout the poem we read that God knows what will happen before it happens, suggesting that He has the ability to put things in place in order to achieve the outcome he wants. For example, in Book 8 Adam asks God for a companion, and God tells him that he knew that Adam needed a companion, but he was just waiting for Adam to ask. God sets him up to do what he wanted Adam to do.

The God of Judeo-Christian tradition removes himself from the world out of respect/punishment for mankind’s free will and choice, and has been known to prefer communicating in signs, symbols, and dreams. He competes with Satan over humanities goodness, and requires that we take him on faith and trust his will, provided we can correctly discern his will and/or wait patiently for it to become clear. The inhabitants of the Island are also required to take part in the same kind of faith and trust in Jacob and/or MIB, as well as any of the other leaders (“gods”) on the Island.

Richard, the Ambassador and Raphael, the Messenger

Richard Alpert (also known as Richardus and by his birth name Ricardo), a long-time inhabitant of the Island, arrived in 1867 as a slave on the Black Rock. In episode “Ab Aeterno”, as the only survivor of the shipwreck that brought him to the Island, he was given the choice of who to follow: Jacob or MIB. After listening to the arguments of both sides and MIB promising to reunite him with his true love (and dead wife) Isabella, Richard ultimately chooses to follow Jacob, who makes him ageless in exchange for Richard’s being the sole intermediary between Jacob and any other people who will or do inhabit the Island. Jacob tells Richard, “If I don’t want to want to step in maybe you can do it for me. You can be my representative and my intermediary between me and the people I bring to the Island” (“Ab Aeterno”). Richard perpetually appears to be in his late 30s or early 40s, the age in which a person has gained knowledge, wisdom, and experience while still youthful in appearance and strength, making him the ideal leader.

Like Richard, Paradise Lost’s angelic messenger, Raphael, is the intermediary between Adam and God: “…Raphael / The affable Arch-Angel, had forewarn'd Adam by dire example to beware Apostasie” (7.40-43). Raphael delivers messages of instruction to Adam pertaining to the commandments God has given. In Book 5, Raphael reminds Adam and Eve of the commandment to not partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. As God’s intermediary, Raphael again clarifies Adam and Eve what God expects of them.

Lost Supper

The cast picture for season 6 depicts “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, when Christ administered the Sacrament or Holy Communion for the first time, telling his disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23-26). The cast picture contains fourteen people instead of thirteen, so it is not an exact replication, but it does illustrate similarities between the characters in the painting and the photo.

Locke (the body MIB uses to appear to the people on the Island) sits in Jesus’ place, representing the power of persuasion MIB has of the people on the Island. Jack sits in the place of “doubting” Thomas, which fits with his character in that Jack always questions people and their motives. Sayid takes the place of Judas Iscariot, also representing the fact that Sayid has, especially in this last season, betrayed the other survivors by following MIB in an also zombie, entranced way. Kate sits in the place of John “the Beloved,” making the connection between Kate and MIB interesting, in that in this last season, MIB makes it a point to make sure that Kate will follow him and do what he needs/wants her to do.


As we discussed at the beginning of this paper, anamnesis is a special recalling or remembrance. Just as Adam and Eve and their posterity should remember God, Jesus, and their commandments in order to ensure that they’re on a righteous path, the characters of Lost need a similar recalling in order to gain the knowledge to choose their path. In season six, during the “flash sideways” where the plane never crashed, the characters are beginning to recall and remember things that happened on the Island, and people encountered. Reality can be redeemed through anamnesis, and for the survivors that means a convergence between the two worlds, which is crucial to their survival.

This is how J.J. Abrams tells the story of the Garden of Eden. The story of the Fall will be told over and over again in many different ways, just as Milton did with Paradise Lost. As Pullman says, “I think it is the central story of our lives, the story that more than any other tells us what it means to be human” (10).

Works Cited

da Vinci, Leonardo. The Last Supper. 1495-1498. Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

D’Amico, Bob. The Lost Supper. 2010. New York.

Lost. Executive Producer J.J. Abrams. ABC, 2004-2010. Television.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Wallerstein, Nicholas. “The Copious Matter of My Song”: A Study of Theology and Rhetoric in Milton’s Paradise Lost and 23rd Sonnet.” Pacific Coast Philology 30.1 (1995): 42-58. JSTOR. Web. 20 April 2010.


  1. i really really want to read your paper. how do i get to it?

  2. Rachel!
    I am so happy it was you. I was feeling so awful thinking I had lost my brain because I did not know who Kristin was. I am SO happy to know I am not crazy. Seriously I have been feeling like an awful person because I thought maybe I had forgotten a really good friend named Kristin. Hallelujah!
    The wanker comment was awesome. So happy someone commented about that.
    Looking forward to reading your paper.
    p.s. how did you know jake is an awful dancer?

  3. I'm not Kristen and I have no idea who she is! Sorry!! hahahaha.


“You look ridiculous if you dance You look ridiculous if you don't dance So you might as well dance.” ― Gertrude Stein

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