In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan is an ambiguous character that puts a twist on this retelling of the Biblical villain. Milton forces the reader to look at evil and the antagonistic Satan in a more complex light in contrast to the unsympathetic figure referenced in other texts. As the fallen archangel, Satan is a struggling hero fighting against an oppressor, the devil that tempts man to their downfall, and the rebel that involuntarily does God’s bidding. Many of Satan’s attributes are complex and contain contradictory dualities. Satan is determined and believes in his own righteousness when he sees God as a dictator that uses his creations as amusement.
This aspect of Satan serves as the final stage in a reader’s transition from viewing Satan as the brave leader of a just cause, to viewing him as a lowly coward. Thus, when the character of Satan is traced through its evolution of Paradise Lost, the reason behind the order of development can be seen. Milton’s desire to create a strong hatred of Satan is achieved best by highlighting Satan’s good points first. Then, when Satan’s real character begins to emerge, the reader is appalled at the actions of their “hero”, causing them to dislike him more than had he originally been a bad character. The reader’s distaste for Satan is strengthened by Satan’s shift in motives.
As shown throughout Paradise Lost, but beginning in Book 1 when Satan says "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven", Satan's biggest sin is pride and because of his pride hope is unattainable for him (line 263). Milton suggests that this is the number one reason Satan is not only thrown out of Heaven, but... ... middle of paper ... ...ed" (lines 55-57; lines 60-69). As the reader reads of the horror of hell and Satan's struggle, the reader almost becomes sucked in like one of his minions. Milton portrays Satan's position as a sad state that is blamed on everyone else but himself, when in reality that's exactly whose fault it is, Satan's. Regardless of Satan's pride and vanity and hopeless situation, the quote "The mind is its own place, and in itself/ Can make a Heaven of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven" lies as a central theme for Satan's situation (lines 254-255).
He uses Satan's heroic qualities to introduce his followers his ability to corrupt the good. Satan is one of the greatest angels in Heaven and is known as Lucifer, meaning, ‘light bearer’. This shows he was once a good angel. Milton makes the reader see him as a leader and a strong influence on all in his presence. Satan states: "How such united force of gods, how such / As stood like these, co... ... middle of paper ... ...pportive of him, later reveal his truly destructive character, resulting in the reader disliking Satan.
Paradise Lost is a story of Genesis told as it normally would be, but with a protagonist focus on Satan. The story is told largely with Satan being favorably portrayed and God having little presence other than cursing things, which convinces the audience that Satan’s view of God as a tyrant may not be too far off. Still, Satan is portrayed as the villain of the story. However, he has characteristics of a classical hero; including flaws that make the audience relate to and feel sympathy for him. By using part of the black-and-white Genesis story which paints Satan as evil and juxtaposing a narrative which paints Satan as a sympathetic hero, Milton raises a question about morality that largely define the audience’s reaction to the story: what is immoral?
The later introduction of The Almighty had the readers change their feelings towards sin, as the ways of God were introduced to them and these ways were shown to be the way to feel and believe. This levy of good vs. evil carried on throughout the poem with the interaction of Satan and his fallen angels with God and his son in Heaven. The common representation of sin and evil came from the lead character in the battle against God, Satan. His name means "enemy of God." He was a former high angel from Heaven named Lucifer, meaning, "light bearer" (John).
Satan’s envious nature plagues personality; he soon establishes himself as an empowered rebel. In order to mimic and rival the authority of God, Satan immediately establishes himself in a position of power by claiming the role as the leader of the fallen. As a leader Satan exhibits the audacity of self-confidence, he claims “to be weak is miserable doing or suffering” (line 158). His claim is so commanding that the other fallen angels awaken from their state of mental unconsciousness. Satan position as an empowered rebel is illustrated through his infernal mind, and it’s craving for authority; accordingly, Satan urges the shattered forces to “Receive thy new possessor” (line 252).
An example of this is when we are first introduced to Satan. Satan and the other fallen angels are in hell and Satan tells the others to not be frightened, when he is frightened as well. The character of Satan "deteriorates" greatly through the epic (Ruma 81). Satan is viewed as a great warrior and then as time passes, his own followers begin to doubt him. "Milton has his brilliant hero advance to be met and repulsed, first verbally, and then in arms" (Revard 225).
Toward the middle of the story, Satan acted almost as a political figure; he knew when and what to say to persuade other angels to follow him. Some reader suggests that Satan is the protagonist of the story because he struggled to combat his mistrusts and weaknesses. Nonetheless this goal was evil and Adam and Eve turned out to be the pure heroes at the end of the story while they help begin to fix humankind’s evil fate. There are several reasons why Milton focused so much Satan and gave him all the good lines. It is important to know the changes Satan progressed throughout the story.
Paradise Lost is an epic of epic proportions! It chronologs the designs of Satan, the fall of the angels, the creation and subsequent fall of man from paradise, and finally ends with some hope for a paradise regained. At first glance it seems to be two epics rolled into one. The book begins right away introducing us to the would be protagonist, Satan, up against an indominable force, God. We are made to sympathise with Satan's plight and almost admire him or hope for his success.