The Power of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

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Throughout the text of Milton’s Paradise Lost, we can see many instances of binary relationships connecting separate conceptual ideas. The construction of "authorship" in the poem exists as a good example of just such a relationship. This theme incorporates two very different ideas in the poem, and is central to the understanding of issues concerning the creation and use of power. The attention Milton gives to each character, and their specific personality, allows us to interpret their actions as consciously chosen deeds within the larger framework of the poem. Great detail is given to the idea of "creation". Beyond that of the creation of the world in Book I, there are many instances where the act of creation itself becomes an act of endowing power on some object or person. The most obvious example would be the creation of Adam and Eve by God. By creating the pair, God, desires them to glorify His ways through their praises and deeds. He gives them enough power over their destiny to choose to worship Him as the Almighty. The fact that they have free will is important to God because they choose to give Him praise despite any outside temptation. There is one obvious drawback to this kind of power. They chose to follow Satan’s beguiling words. The fact that they had the free will to follow Satan’s words meant that their decision was cosmically more important because it was arrived at through conscious thought. We can see this idea of power demonstrated throughout Paradise Lost. The dual relationship between the beneficial act of bestowing power at the time of creation and the negative side of the free will to use that power freely, shows up within every character. Instances of creation appear in every book, and can be associated with every character. Some of the first appearances of the word "author" are connected with the idea of creation. In Book III, the throngs of assembled angels say,"Eternal King, the Author of all being/Fountain of light, thyself invisible/..." (III, 376-7) Here God is portrayed as the great originator of everything in all of creation. To be the "author" of something is to be the creator, much the same way as Milton himself is creating the world of the poem. In virtually every instance the act of "authoring", is associated with images of primacy and legitimacy. The ultimate act of creation, that of shaping the physical world itself, brings about another reference to this idea.

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