Paradise Lost Essay, Research Paper
Looking at John Milton?s Paradise Lost, we can see that there are the two ideas of damnation and salvation through reconciliation present in the characters of Satan and Adam & Eve, respectively. It is Satan?s sin of pride that first causes him to fall from God?s grace and into the bowels of hell. This same pride is also what keeps him from being able to be reconciled to God, and instead, leads him to buy into his own idea of saving himself. With Adam & Eve, we see that although they too, disobeyed God, they repented of their sin, and were reconciled to the Divinity through the saving judgement of the Son. It is their ability to admit their wrongdoings to God that allow them to have the promise of returning to Paradise (Heaven); something that Satan was not able to do.
In the fourth book in Paradise Lost, we see Satan wrestling with himself over what has happened (his fall), and what it is he is about to do (his completely setting himself against God). He is able to recognize that God?s forgiving nature extends even to himself, "I could repent and could obtain By Act of Grace, my former state", and is if only for a moment, unsure as to "which way I shall fly"? However, Satan knowingly chooses to cling to his foolish pride, and is unwilling to ask and receive the forgiveness of God, "is there no place left for repentance? none left? disdain forbids me". It is important to understand that Satan fully comprehends the sin he is about to commit as he is well aware of the consequences for his actions. He allows his pride to completely remove him from ever regaining his "former state", and so damns himself and the other fallen angels to the hell set aside for them. This idea of his last and lost chance to reconcile himself to the Divinity is seen when he declares "So farewell Hope? Farewell Remorse: all Good to me is lost". This demonstrates his complete sense of despair, and thereby, his complete rejection of both God and His love.
When we look at Adam & Eve, we see what might be considered tragic "heroes" in the sense that they also knowingly doom themselves to be removed from Paradise, and subjected to the harsh, new world as well as death, and yet persevere with the hope for a better future. What makes their act of sin almost tragic in a way as compared to Satan, is that Satan?s act was meant out of spite and hate for the Divinity by destroying in one day that which took Him six days to create- another sign of Satan?s pride. Neither Adam nor Eve intended on for anything such as this to occur, but instead hoped to achieve a greater state of understanding and being, as was the case with Eve, and out of love for another as with Adam.
Satan realized that he would not be able to catch both man & woman together, so tempted Eve when she was alone, relating to her in a way very similar to his own fall from grace. When Eve was asked by the serpent, she replies that the one restriction placed upon her and Adam was that "the fruit of this fair tree? ye shall not eat thereof, nor shall ye touch it lest ye die". When he explains to her that she would not actually "die", but instead become discerning such as God, it appealed to her desire to be equal to or more powerful than Adam, and so she fell. Although she, like Satan, fell because of her prideful aspirations and was condemned to be placed under her husband, she confesses that "the serpent did beguile me, and I did eat", and so she is able to, unlike Satan, move past her pride, and admit her fault.
Adam chose to partake of the forbidden fruit, also knowing full well that was against the will of God, chose to do so anyhow due to his excessive love for Eve, "thou hast yielded to transgress the strict forbiddance? against his better knowledge, not deciev?d but fondly overcome with female charm". In the case of both Satan and Adam, both loved the creation more than was healthy for them: Adam loved Eve (parts of creation), and Satan loved himself, not realizing that he, himself, was a part of creation (pride). As a result of this excessive love that was not directed towards God, they would fall. However, it is Adam who is able to recognize his sin of disproportionate love of Eve that caused his fall, and bring about a desire in him to seek repentance, "humbly thir faults, and pardon begged with tears".
What is it that makes Adam & Eve almost "heroic" from Milton?s perspective, and why not Satan? It is man?s ability to admit their sin against God as being wrong, and their willingness to take responsibility for their actions. Although they must now live outside of Paradise, face a life of hard work and suffering, and finally "to dust (thou) shalt return", they do not walk away from God, but instead look forward to the promise given to them that "her Seed should be revenged on the Serpent". Satan, however, returns to Hell, after having completed his aim at causing the Fall of Man, with an air of arrogant triumph. However, he is soon brought to realize that despite all his best laid plans, "reluctant, but in vain, a greater power now ruled him, punished him in the shape he sinned", and so, ultimately damns himself.