Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Remember always that you not only have to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one." To be an individual means to act by choice and make decisions with free will enhanced by the power of knowledge. Only then are people true to themselves and to others. In Paradise Lost, Milton clearly conveys this concept of acting freely under God. He shows the reader that only with the freedom to choose do a person's actions become meaningful and sincere. This idea also helps Milton to explain the importance of "the fall" and God's ultimate plan. Throughout the book, free will is demonstrated not only by Adam and Eve, but also Satan and the other fallen angels, as well as God's Son. Each character's fate further explains why freedom is so important in expressing true feelings.
In Paradise Lost, Milton portrays his belief that God's real desire is power. To achieve this power, God has given to man the freedom to choose. By giving mankind, more specifically Adam and Eve, this freedom, God will have undefeatable power because those following him will be true. As Eve later states,
For we to him all praises owe,
And daily thanks, I chiefly who enjoy
So far the happier lot, enjoying thee
Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou
Like consort to thyself canst nowhere find (Milton, 4.444-48)
By following God of their own will, the praise Adam and Eve give to God is real. It is not a dreaded act done out of fear. To take away the freedom Adam and Eve are given would be taking away God's power. This helps to convey the understanding among mankind that part of God's ultimate plan of holding power is to allow people to act on their own free will.
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...e, the decision to do so is much more meaningful. Thus, God has an even greater following, which again, fits into his ultimate plan.
Without the freedom of choice, a person's actions are not sincere or meaningful. As a part of God's ultimate plan, he gives the angels in Heaven and Adam and Eve free will in their actions. By doing so, God heightens his own power because his following is strong and faithful. Satan's character, on the other hand, gains followers out of fear. As a result, he does not attain the same power that God does, which helps to support the thesis that true power can only be gained with free will. Milton also adds depth to this concept by connecting the power of knowledge to free will.
Empson, William. Milton's God. London: Chatto and Windus, 1961.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Ed. Roy Flannagan. New York: Macmillan, 1993.
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