Essay, Research Paper: Paradise Lost By Milton

Literature: John Milton

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Leaving the underworld, once again, defeated by the heavens. Although John
Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, is considered to be a tragedy, it displays
some reminders of a comic end. In its tenth book, when Satan returns to hell,
there is the realization of two of the poem’s purposes: to “assert Eternal
Providence” and to “justify the ways of God to men.” Book Ten is the end
of Satan’s epic journey, portraying his return to hell. Throughout the poem,
Satan, a figure of legendary signifigance, goes on a heroic quest. A quest in
which he seeks power over God’s creations, Adam and Eve, to prove he will not
be subjected to God’s ways. Satan’s passing into God’s paradise, the
Garden of Eden, unveils his valour. He uses his superhuman forces to transform
himself into a serpent and deceive Eve into eating a fruit from the forbidden
tree of knowledge. This proves to be a tragic decision on his part, for when he
returns home from his quest, he and the rest of the residents of hell are
transformed into serpents. This is their punishment for betraying the ways of
God. Satan’s journey follows the usual tragic pattern, ending in horror. Due
to fact that Satan is an evil character, and attempts to use God’s own
creation against him, it is difficult for some to believe that he is the hero in
this epic story. In fact, Francis C. Blessington thinks of Satan as not a
classical hero but a classical villain: Satan is made the archetype of the
sophistical rhetoric, the shallow egotism, and the Stajan 2 destructive pride,
the vices of the classical epic as well as of the classical world. In addition,
he is the perversion of the classical heroic virtues. He often begins by
resembling a victim, sometimes even a perversion of that…. [He is] not a
classical hero but a classical villain who unheroically defeats creatures far
below him in stature (18). Though he may not seem to be a hero to the
conventional person, he still is the hero to the many leaders and followers in
the depths of hell. He believes that God is wrong in his ways, and therefore
tries to build an empire to replace the one in heaven. He has all of the
characteristics of a heroic figure; “Indeed, you can’t be really bad unless
you do have most of the virtues. Look at Milton’s Satan for example. Brave,
strong, generous, loyal, prudent, temperate, self-sacrificing” (Bush 72). He
is the heroic figure, who believes that he can be better than God. However, he
finds that he is not powerful enough, and is brought to a tragic end. Although
Satan and the rest of his followers are tragically defeated, there are still
reminders of comedy toward the end of this epic. When Satan sets out on his
quest, his goal is to corrupt Adam and Eve, and persuade them to betray God. He
accomplishes this task, and rejoices in victory: For in possession such, not
only of right, I call ye and declare ye now, returned Successful beyond hope, to
lead ye forth Triumphant out of this infernal pit Abominable, accursed, the
house of woe, And dungeon of our tyrant!” (Milton, X. 461-466). This
accomplishment in itself is a huge deal for Satan and his followers. It is
because of him that man is disobedient, resulting in the harsh punishments
bestowed on the human race, by God. Stajan 3 In hopes of turning God’s naïve
creation against him. He succeeds in his quest; the devil himself is the main
reason for hard child labour, death for all humans and the extinction of
paradise. To Satan, this is victory; this is his comic end. Throughout the poem,
Milton repeatedly “[justifies] the ways of God to men.” In Book X, when
Satan returns to hell and informs his followers of his victory, they hiss at
him. They cannot help but hiss, for the reason that God turns them all into
snakes and serpents. God is in the right when he does this; after all, Satan
corrupted the entire human race. Satan persuades the naive Eve into thinking
that if she disobeys God, and eats an apple from the tree of knowledge, life
will improve. So as a punishment, God gives the snakes and serpents, “parched
with scalding thirst and hunger,” sodom thirst-quenching apples (Milton, X.
556). These apples look to be appetizing, but instead they dissolve into ashes
when plucked from the tree. This punishment is a just one, within great reason.
Satan tricks Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and so God deceives the
residents of hell into eating the apples. It is just as God says in the first
testament of the bible, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. They are getting
exactly what they deserve. Another one of Milton’s main purposes in this poem,
is the realization of the assertion of eternal providence. Even though Adam and
Eve fall, and are take away from the garden, they still possess the ability to
make the best of things: “The loss of an earthly paradise should leave a
happier paradise to be achieved within the soul, a paradise independent of the
world without and Sattained only through the Christian virtues for which modern
man has had little use – humility, faith, and obedience” (Bush 87). They
will always have their creator taking care of them. Satan, however, does not
receive an opportunity for redemption. He does not get a second chance, he
betrays God several times, turning his own creation against him. For this, he is
not guaranteed eternal providence. He is instead transformed into a serpent, a
form in which is said to be what Stajan 4 devils transform into for their
humiliation at certain times in the year. God will still watch him, he watched
him after he betrayed him the first time and he’ll do it again. As long as God
is caring for his kingdom, he will keep watch over everyone. Those who are
dutiful will be kindly cared for, and those who disobey will be punished. God is
a fair ruler; how you treat one person, is how you will be rewarded or punished
in return. This entire poetic epic, is a tragic one for the heroic figure.
Although Satan does successfully complete his quest, he still ends up being
punished for attempting to turn God’s creation against him. Throughout the
journey of Satan, Milton continually gets across his two main purposes. We find
that God’s is fair in all of his punishments, and that he asserts eternal
providence to all. This epic is a renewal of the Christian faith, putting God
into the spotlight. Even though man was disobedient, he still receives a second
chance: “The world was all before them, where to choose / Their place of rest
and Providence their guide” (Milton, XII. 647-648).
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