Reflections of Milton in Paradise Lost and On Having Arrived

Reflections of Milton in Paradise Lost and On Having Arrived

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Reflections of Milton in Paradise Lost and On Having Arrived


     At a young age, John Milton was convinced that he was destined for

greatness.  He thought that he "might perhaps leave something so written to

aftertimes as they should not willingly let it die"(Text 414).  For this

reason he thought that his life was very important to himself and to others.

 He often wrote directly about himself, and he used his life experiences as

roots for his literature.  In Paradise Lost and in a sonnet entitled "On

His Blindness," Milton speaks indirectly and directly of his loss of vision.

 Also in Paradise Lost, he uses the political situation of his time as a

base for the plot, and he incorporates elements of his own character into

the character of Satan.  In "On Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three",

he speaks plainly about the course of his life.


     In the latter part of his life, Milton lost his vision. This loss was

very traumatic for him because he had not yet completed his mission of

writing a memorable work of literature. Soon after, he continued his work

with the help of his daughters. He dictated to them a sonnet he called "On

His Blindness" in which he asks how God expects him to do his work blind.

Milton's ambitious side says that his writing talent is "lodged with [him]

useless"(Text 417).  His religious side soon realizes that he is

"complaining" to God and he takes it back.  He discovers that God will not

look down on him if he does not write a masterpiece.  He granted Milton a

great talent, and he expects Milton to be happy. He has to learn to do his

work in a dark world.  This poem was not the last time Milton referred to

his condition in his writing.  In book one of Paradise Lost, while invoking

the Muse, Milton says "what in me is dark illumine"(Hndout 22).  He asks to

be granted the power to work through his blindness.  He obviously thinks of

his blindness as a major weakness.  Later in the text, he describes Hell as

having "no light, but rather darkness visible"(Hndout 270).  It is Milton's

way of almost subliminally implying that his condition is comparable to

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being damned to the underworld.  His blindness was something that he

constantly had to deal with and he managed to include it in most of his



     At the prime of Milton's life, the political situation in England was

very unsteady.  Charles I was overthrown, and the Puritan dictator Oliver

Cromwell installed himself as the "Lord Protector."  Being a Puritan

himself, Milton supported this new government, and he even held a job

within it.  But, England became tired of the strict Puritan rule, and

Cromwell's son was defeated, and hastily replaced by Charles II.  Everyone

who supported Cromwell and the civil war was sentenced to death. Because

of his standing in the community, Milton was allowed to retire in peace.

As punishment he lost everything he had including his reputation.  He would

use the events of his life to help him form the story for book one of

Paradise Lost.  In his greatest work, Milton begins with a civil war in

Heaven during which Lucifer and Beelzebub are defeated and banished to Hell.

This event parallels the civil war within England with the Puritans as

Lucifer, and the rest of England as God.  The Puritans tried to take over

England, but they were defeated after a number of years.  Most of the

Puritan's were killed, Milton was banished from society.  Lucifer was

banished to Hell, and he would forever lose his reputation as an archangel.

These similarities lead scholars to believe that Satan is Milton. Lucifer

says that they should make a "Heaven of Hell"(Hndout 280).  This line shows

that Satan had the will to work through the bad times and make the best of

it.  Milton acted the same way with his blindness.  Milton seems to be a

part of Satan's character.


     In book nine of Paradise Lost, Milton tells the story of the

temptation of Eve.  Satan's argument with Eve reflects beliefs of Milton.

In deciding whether to convince Adam or Eve to eat from the tree of

knowledge, he does not choose Adam because he has a "higher intellectual"

capacity.  At the time Milton lived, women were considered inferior to men.

Milton obviously supported this belief.  By modern standards he would have

been considered sexist, by seventeenth century standards he was not.


     Also in book nine, concerning the forbidden tree, Milton emphasizes

the great knowledge that can be gained from eating its fruit.  Throughout

his life, he thought that continually learning was very important.  He

spent part of his life living at home reading.  Satan tells Eve that God

does not want them to become as knowledgable as he is.  If she eats the

fruit, he tells her that she will know "both good and evil"(Text 293).

Milton's emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge implies that if he was

put into Eve's position, he would also betray God.  Milton formulated an

argument that would have convinced himself.


     In the earlier part of his life, Milton was often worried that he

would not do the work that he was destined to do.  To express this feeling,

he wrote a sonnet called "On Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three."

In it, he explains how he is getting older and he still does not have any

work done.  He was concerned because he did not have an idea for what to

write. This work reflects his character because he could not think of

anything else but his life-long goal.  He was very focused.  It also shows

how he was egotistical.  In his time, he was not well liked.  Due to his

Puritan background and his egocentric personality, he was not respected by

more than a select few.


     Throughout his life, John Milton believed that he would be remembered

as great.  He was so self-absorbed that he was a major part of a lot of his

work.  Also, he used his life and character to formulate Satan and Paradise

Lost.  He thought he would be remembered and he was correct.
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