Luca Tamer Title: An essay about two literary devices; my apologies for boredom. Paradise Lost by John Milton is an epic poem published in 1667 to describe the fall of men. Written in third person, Paradise lost is one of the most crucial pieces of writing used to describe satan and the creation stories. This piece of writing although very formal, lofty, and quite tragic; sheds light upon the darkness and presents a very interesting twist to the creation stories written in the old testament. Milton’s understanding of disobedience is sympathetic but also harsh in the way he describes satan as a tragic hero and how Adam and Eve’s disobedience allows God to show his mercy and understanding in their punishments and his eternal presence in mankind. Satan is portrayed as a fallen hero to an unjust god throughout Books 1 and 2; especially after Satan “rises” off the fiery lake and than produces a “heroic” speech to the rest of the fallen angels, that they can make “a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (Book I, 255) and adds, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav’n” (Book I, 263).
“Unjust thou say’st.Flatly unjust, to bind with laws the free, And equal over equals to let reign, One over all with unsucceeded power. Shalt thou give law to God, shalt thou dispute With him the points of liberty, who madeThee what thou art, and formed the Powers of Heav’n Such as he pleased, and circumscribed their being?”( Book 2 Line 819- 822) Satan’s description of god is very negative and makes this figure seem controlling and is almost portrayed as a dictator with unfair power with unfair laws. Now a “rebel”, Satan leads the grand council. Than departs on his own to create Chaos and find Earth.
Milton does this on purpose to make sure the reader depicts Satan as a fearless motivated leader because he is going on this conquest to find Earth alone. Furthermore, Milton gives satan the first word in the poem giving Satan his point of view. By beginning in media res this makes Satan the first empathetic character in the epic poem.
Milton’s characterization of Satan also makes the Devil seem understandable and for the first time in history Satan is portrayed in a positive manner. It’s until later in the the poem that the reader can realize that Satan’s point of view was blasphemy and were downright exaggerations to what had really occurred. Merciful; A word to describe God in Paradise Lost. Milton iterates at the very start of the epic, that Adam and Eve is the subject for the rest of the poem. The Garden of Eden, otherwise known as paradise, a paradise that has been lost, wink wink, is where the first humans existed according to the book of Genesis. During this time God had received news that Satan is on his journey to Earth and ordered a council of his angels. He tells them of Satan’s intentions, and the Son volunteers himself to make the sacrifice for humankind.
All the while Satan is traveling through Night and through Chaos to get to the Garden. God hears Adam tell Eve that they must not eat off the Tree of Knowledge, “the only sign of our obedience left,”(Book 4, line 428) or else God will kill them. Eventually after Satan had studied the life in the garden; he decides to take shape of a serpent which corrupted Eve to give the forbidden fruit to Adam when that was that was God’s only request not to do. Even after God’s efforts to send Raphael in order to educate Adam and Eve on the danger and presence of satan it was not enough.
While Adam and Eve are the first humans to disobey god, Satan was the first of all god’s creation to disobey god. Satan’s decision to disobey god came from himself while Adam and Eve were provoked. Adam and Eve decide to repent their sin and ask for forgiveness rather than Satan who will always produce evil on mankind and all things. In book 3 God says, “he created Adam “Sufficient to have stood”. God is saying that Adam could withstand this disobedience he had committed. Adam and Eve understand that their disobedience to God will be corrected through generations of toil on Earth. Milton made Satan seem as if he was a tragic hero only to embarrass this character and show how Satan’s disobedience lead him to his downfall.
Milton, a religious man, uses Satan as an obvious enemy of god who goes against the rules of nature and the universe, God’s rules. In Paradise Lost, Satan tries to destroy heaven with his rebellion and commits these rebellious acts not because of how “unjust” God is but because Satan wants what he wants and that is negative freedom. For example, in book 6 during the rebellion, “in hollow cube Training his dev’lish engin’ry, impaled On every side with shadowing squadrons deep, To hide the fraud” (Lines 552-555). The behavior in this battle is a perfect example of how Milton’s “viewpoint” of Satan completely changed to the more formal hatred of the devil. Milton is describing how Satan organizes his squadrons in an attempt, “to hide the fraud” , and the use of the words “hollow”, “dev’lish”, “fraud”, and “hide” to support the idea of the well known evil devil. John Milton’s, Paradise Lost, displays his own opinion on disobedience.
The way Milton describes Satan in the first two Books is very different and quite surprising due to the public knowledge that he was a religious man himself. Showing Satan as a hero was in its entirety approps. As the epic poem continued it was clear that Milton wasn’t glorifying Satan rather presenting reasons why obedience to god is crucial. In addition, showing the mercy of God. Adam and Eve although were disobedient to God’s word, were forgiven and asked to repent to him. Milton’s level of disobedience is sympathetic towards Satan at first but than after continuing his wave of evil he could not be forgiven and this is why at the end of the poem Satan is portrayed as the Devil that is commonly known as.
Adam and Eve’s story remains sympathetic even through the end because they asked for forgiveness. Although disobedient Adam and Eve decided to take the road to God. The mercy of God and the understanding of him in this epic poem is reflective of Milton’s own belief of disobedience.