John Milton's Paradise Lost

Good Essays
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?
Two important things that make Satan a hero are identified in the beginning of Paradise Lost: an obstacle Satan is trying to overcome and flaws that Satan has. In the beginning of the poem, Satan falls into Hell, which sets up the en media res (starting with action in the middle of the story) narrative so that the reader does not know the circumstances under which Satan rebelled against God. Satan despairs at first at the thought of eternal damnation and debates making up with God, but decides that if he tried to redeem himself he would eventually rebel again. Instead, Satan decides to corrupt the rumored new race, the human race, that God has created and, with his host of demons, “reascend / self-raised, and repossess their native seat [in Heaven]” (1.633-634). While Satan determines his end-game, however, some of his flaws are revealed, such as pride and vanity. Satan is not afraid of eternal damnation, rather he figures since he is immortal he can keep rebelling and causing harm ...

... middle of paper ...

...ces, he could be described as a misunderstood savior; for those audiences lacking in sympathy, Satan could be described as a deceitful, manipulative scoundrel with a hidden agenda. Though the audience can try to separate themselves from the morality standpoint that they support, their experiences weigh in with their opinions; more clearly, everything the audience has experienced affects their points of view. In this case, being human is a part of how you feel about Satan tempting Eve, which affects whether you support Satan as a satanic hero or not; attempting to view this issue objectively is nearly impossible and results in more headaches than solid answers. Milton does a good job at expressing how even the darkest black next to the purest white is bound to smudge gray; in other words, evil and good can coincide at times and leave the audience tired and confused.
Get Access