25 March 2014
In John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, he recreates the Genesis story of the fall of man as it was caused by Satan. It is Satan's fatal flaws of pride and ambition that led him to battle over Heaven and even though he was defeated, he would not give up the battle against
God. Ultimately, accomplishing mans entering into sin and promising to eternally do evil against god and man. Nonetheless, throughout the epic poem we also observe Satan struggle with the despair, desire and even the repentance he feels, making him seem more human than evil and eliciting our sympathy for him. Satan's fatal flaws, ever present inner struggles and his determination to wage covert battles in his war against God that he knows he cannot win, make him Milton's unlikely hero. One would gather that Milton, a Puritan, would have no problem casting God as the hero, and Satan as the antagonist. But looking back in history, Milton saw that most epic heroes had conflicts that prevented them from accomplishing their goals. God and his Son have no conflict, and Adam’s story doesn’t really begin until the Fall of Man. Therefore, Milton was forced to select Satan as the hero of Paradise Lost.
Paradise Lost come beingin, not with the predicted possible heroes of the Genesis stories,
God or man, however Milton starts rather with Satan, so that sets the poem on him and his behavior. From the start off of the poem Milton was blamong Satan for the fall of man, "Who first seduced them to that foul revolt?/Th' infernal Serpent..." (Milton 1.3334), appears to set him up as the definitive adversary, not just of the epic, but of humanity. John Milton briefly express of Satan's self respect that led him to try to overthrow God and how he was cast into
Hell, but he also tells us, "...for now the thought/Both of lost happiness and lasting pain/Torments him..."(Milton 1.5556), right away trying to make Satan someone to be pitied, more human and less evil.
The first impression of Satan that Milton tries to get across to the reader is of Satan’s absolute greatness: this particular quote refers to the hugeness of his spear alone, “To equal which the tallest pine / Hewn on Norwegian hills” (Milton 1. 291292) and he even states that his shield is the size of the moon. Milton uses ‘human’ terms to express the sheer size and power of
Satan and his followers, the fallen angels. “He above the rest, / In shape and gesture proudly eminent, / Stood like a tower” (Milton 1. 612614) Even though Satan is the leader of the fallen angels and of Hell, he would not be able even to think about fighting God without them, but he is still represented by Milton as a huge figure, even to the most powerful of his followers. The poet builds up Satan’s character by referring to earthly objects (‘the tallest pine’, ‘tower’) as comparisons, and he is able to use more monstrous and terrifying similes to portray this
(‘bottomless perdition’, ‘penal fire’).Milton describes Satan's physical character to be "in bulk as huge/As whom the fables name of monstrous size,/ Titanian..."(Milton 1.196198), and then
"Deeming some island," (Milton 1.205), meaning Satan's size is so gigantic a sailor would
mistake him for an island on which he can dock his boat. Satan's size growing larger with each new comparison supports Satan as the hero. Another example, Satan is so physically impressive
Milton can't find anything his equal, setting him apart from the angels and man. Beginning with discovering himself in Hell after being conquered in battle, Satan exhbit,
"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?/That glory never shall his wrath or might extort from me" (Milton 1.105110). Nevertheless he has lost Heaven, they have not lost revenge, hate or courage and he will never