Paradise Lost: Satan Essay, Research Paper
Paradise Lost: Satan’s Character
In Milton’s first book of Paradise Lost, Satan, the expected evil archfiend of the epic, is actually depicted as a powerful and heroic character. Satan’s passionate and ambitious character is more intriguing than God’s reasonable and mild personality. Milton needs Satan to be a desirable character in the beginning to represent the temptation man faces when dealing with the devil. However Milton, being a strong puritan, would never allow an evil character to become the true hero. Milton did not plan on Satan being viewed as positively as he sometimes is in book one. Much of the sympathy and praise Satan receives from readers is due to the changed morals of today’s society. The ambitious and proud character that Milton created for Satan, is seen as positive in today’s society. However when Milton wrote this epic, being ambitious was seen as an act against God. Milton had intentions to make Satan agreeable in the beginning, however he did not intend him to resemble the epic’s hero. This view was caused by the change in society’s morals and could not have been predicted by Milton.
In the beginning of the epic, Satan is not pure evil. By the end of book one, he still resembles Lucifer, the angel he once was in heaven. It is not until the later books that Satan is portrayed as completely evil and disagreeable. Satan is seen as a tragic figure as he is thrown down into Hell. This evokes feelings of sympathy towards him. Because Satan is not pure evil, it leaves room for people to feel positively towards him. Satan’s magnificence also comes from the inspired verse which Milton puts into his speeches. “All is not lost: the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield: and what is else not to be overcome?” Satan’s passionate and encouraging words draws the reader towards him. Satan’s character is far more complex than God’s and more interesting to read about.
Satan’s positive image with the reader is also due to his attitude. Satan responds to his fate by claiming, “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of a Hell, a Hell of a Heaven.” The strength in Satan’s personality causes the reader to feel favorable towards his attitude. The idea that it is “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”, is also widely believed in today’s society. Many young readers may see Satan’s pride as a positive rebellion against God, because ambition and pride today is used for self-improvement. But Satan’s infectious character cannot be misjudged- he is the villain in the story, not the hero. Satan was thrown out of Heaven for his proud and ambitious acts. His proud character is meant to be viewed as a sin, not as righteous rebellion against the “tyranny of Heaven”.
Milton praises God throughout book one by undercutting Satan’s heroic courage. Milton is careful to still maintain God as the Almighty one. Satan says after his defeat, “our Conqueror (who I now of force believe to be Almighty)”. Milton shows that it is God who creates people’s fates, not Satan. Satan cannot even rise from the lake until God releases him from his chains. Milton also makes the narrator belittle Satan’s efforts throughout the epic. The narrator explains, “So spake the apostate Angel, though in pain, vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair; and him thus answered soon his bold compeer”. Milton made Satan as large as the monstrous “Totanian or Earthborn” to demonstrate how powerful God must be to defeat such a force.
The devil’s personality is made favorable so the reader can understand how powerful and deceitful temptation is. If Milton had made Satan disagreeable from the beginning then Adam and Eve would have simply been viewed as weak characters. However, now that the reader himself has been shamefully drawn in by Satan’s character, one can relate to Adam’s conflict.
Milton’s presentation of Satan makes it very difficult not to respond to him with some admiration and sympathy. Lucifer is an impressive figure and Milton has prepared for him many persuasive speeches. These speeches were prepared purposely so people can understand the temptation faced by Adam and Eve, however Satan is not the epic’s hero. Satan can only continue to live after his immoral acts because of the grace of God. Satan’s pride and ambition is too strong for his own good, and it blinds him to whom the true power in the universe is- God. Milton has made Satan into a mighty stature to show how strong God must be to defeat his force.