Essay on Milton's Paradise Lost -Satan’s Myth of Free Will

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Satan’s Myth of Free Will in Paradise Lost

Milton, through Satan's soliloquies in Book 4, shows that Satan's idea of free will is a facade, and God carefully manipulates him to fulfill his plan of Adam and Eve's fall. While speaking, Satan inadvertently places doubts in the reader's mind that his will is free. Satan proves through his actions that God created him to act in a very narrow range, even though he himself does not realize this. The combination of pride, ambition, abhorrence of subordination, and ignorance of his own state as a puppet lead to perpetually diminishing stature and divinity.

Satan introspects in the first soliloquy (lines 32-113), searching for the motivation and reasoning behind his fall. He struggles with why he felt the urge to rebel. This very doubting suggests that his rebellion does not originate from a conscious effort; it is part of his internal makeup. Therefore, God created a flawed angel from the beginning (this is also supported by the fact that Sin comes from Satan's head while he is still in Heaven).

Satan first acknowledges that his pride and ambition caused his fall (4.40). After his first mention of the two weaknesses, he says that God created "what I was / in that bright eminence . . ." (4.43); God not only created him, he gave him his pride and ambition. This begins to establish that God wanted him to fall. Satan further laments what has happened: "O had his powerful destiny ordained / Me some inferior angel, I had stood then / happy . . ." (4.58-60). What Milton suggests and what Satan does not catch on to is that God's destiny is for him to be in a position to fall. Still, Satan asserts that his will is his own: ". . . Since against his thy will / Chose...

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...em free . . ." (3.122-4), just as mankind is. Milton's presentation of contrary information in Satan's soliloquies, and in the description of Paradise and Adam and Eve presents an argument that Milton was of Satan's party unknowingly as Blake said, because the lack of free will tends to prove Satan's assertion that God is a tyrant.

This would in effect prove what Satan says in the second soliloquy to Adam and Eve: "Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge / on you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged," (386-7). If Satan truly had no free will, then nothing would be his fault, as he alleges. God tells Jesus that humanity can find grace because Satan deceives it into falling, (3.130-2). But, if Satan is deceived into falling, can he also find grace?

Works Cited:

Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Scott Elledge. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1975.
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