Lucifer is the epitome and personification of all that is evil according to the traditional American perspective. His name has been linked with the name Satan so that either name refers to "the Devil" in most of the western Christian tradition. American culture, with its Puritan roots and Fundamentalist influences, has cast Lucifer in the role of the eternal enemy of all that we hold to be good and worthwhile. Preachers and others who teach Christian morality have described his power as being great enough to tempt all of us, at the same time, into sin. He seeks to lead us away from God and into his own realm of fear, torment, and undying agony. He is to be shunned and feared, lest he bring us to perdition. He is not human and he possesses none of the traits of a good person, only the bad ones.
Lucille Clifton uses Lucifer in quite a number of her poems. She does not use him in the traditional role of the inhuman enemy who is to be feared. Rather, she imbues him with human qualities and shows him as a flawed being who was, nevertheless, loved and missed by those who knew him best. She instead reflects back to Lucifer’s Promethean history as the "son of the morning" (Isaiah 14:12). As Lucifer says in "lucifer speaks in his own voice" from Quilting, "illuminate I could / and so / illuminate I did" (22-24). This use of the personification of all that is evil in a possibly non-evil context causes the reader to reflect upon their understanding of Lucifer and his influence in an environment without clear-cut definitions of right and wrong, which brings about a fundamental change in the readers outlook on Lucifer.
In Clifton’s poetry Lucifer is not only presented as the object of another’s voi...
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...tion of all that is evil is, in fact, a human person, then what is evil outside of mankind? The reader is most likely to respond to this question with the response that Lucifer is representative of humanity in its lack of understanding of God and His purpose, and that evil is best defined by humanity because of our lack of understanding. There is no evil except as we misunderstand God’s purpose.
Clifton’s poems about Lucifer ultimately act as Lucifer himself did. Lucifer was the light-bringer – that is, in fact, what the name Lucifer means. Her poems shed light upon our understanding of Lucifer and his role, meaning, and purpose. This light makes it easier for us to see our understandings, but it is still up to us to construct or change that understanding. This is perhaps the best thing for someone whose name, Lucille, also stems from the root word for light.
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