Essay on The Problem With Evil In Paradise Lost

Submitted By ekarges
Words: 1520
Pages: 7

The Problem with Evil in Paradise Lost

The idea of evil in John Milton’s, “Paradise Lost” is tricky because it makes for several problems that we see throughout the poem. The question that stems from this is, “Why is evil a thing? Why is there evil in the world?” These questions of course then lead us to the questions, “Why did God unchain Satan in Hell?” and “Why not just keep Satan Good in the first place?” For God, keeping Satan chained to the lake of fire would have been no problem and evil would have never existed. However, since he was released and created his own realm of darkness, evil was able to make its way to Earth/Eden and eventually cause the downfall of man. To understand all this, we have to understand what evil really means in Paradise Lost. What does Satan represent? In this paper I aim to discuss, with good understanding, why Milton created Satan as such a pinnacle character and why the problem of Evil is so important to this poem. Satan as a character in Paradise Lost is a really interesting concept because he was seen as the protagonist for the first couple of books whereas God is seen as the antagonistic tyrant. This was a peculiar move for Milton during a time period where religion was basically everything and to be pro-Satan would be looked down upon. However, without Satan’s classical epic demeanor, we would not be able to see the true emotion he has against God, or how he was able to become the king of the underworld. Satan (Lucifer) was the second in command to God; therefore he was created by God and considered divine. Satan not knowing the power of God, “In equal ruin: into what Pit thou seest
From what highth fall’n, so much the stronger prov’d
He with his Thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire Arms? (Milton ln. 91-94)” challenged God on the battlefield and lost. He was then banished for punishment into Hell. So why would God banish him? Well, because Satan chose to be banished. To Satan, God was a tyrant who wanted control over everything. God however, gave all of his creature’s free will. With this free will, Satan and his followers thought it was better (clouded by pride) to accept punishment and refute repentance (Wallace). This acceptance of choosing evil as their good is the first depiction of evil in Paradise Lost. Now, Satan and his minions are chained to the lake of fire in Hell and God ends up releasing them. This is what aggravates so many people. Why would God let Satan go if he knew that Satan had renounced good and succumbed to evil? Nobody truly knows this answer but Milton already knew that there was evil in the world around him, so he had to give some evidence on the topic. As it seems, Satan is considered the end-all beat-all of sinners. Many think that Paradise Lost is a story proving Satan to be the origin of all evil. This does not seem to the case in Milton’s story however. In book one, Milton states, “That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought Evil to others, and enrag’d might see
How all his malice serv’d but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace and mercy shewn
On Man by him seduc’t… (Milton ln. 214-219)” Though Satan is vital to the introduction of evil to man, it seems that to Milton, Satan as a character is really more of an allegory to personify that evil still has a presence today (Gilbert). This is also a central message of the poem. It is stating that evil is a destructive entity whereas good is and will always be eternal (Gilbert). Satan knows of the destruction to ones self by saying, “Revenge at first though sweet, Bitter ere long back on itself recoiles. (Milton ln. 24)” So those who seek evil only seek to destroy themselves, and those who seek good, seek goodness the in everyone. God allowed Satan to rise from the lake to prove that the evil doings of Satan would only prove to show the light of God and his good ways. The account of Satan’s fall was not meant to be a