Satan is a character that has been ridiculed and teased in our modern world because of his symbolization of evil, combined with the underlying hypothesis that good will always triumph over evil ultimately questioning and mocking his presence. In Paradise Lost John Milton frays from the typical view of Satan as the devil-on-your-shoulder by having the readers absorbed in the idea that they actually feel sympathetic towards this evil creature. Within lines 605-645 in Book 1 Milton humanizes Satan on a level that the readers can relate, which aids to their view of sympathy towards him.
These lines establish a struggle within Satan and illustrate his banishment from Heaven, which brought him to the path he is on now. Some may argue that this road where Satan strives to be better suits him in the category as a hero character of the narrative because he is always trying to accomplish a tasking feat that is out of reach. In order to examine lines 605-645 the reader must closely examine the events a few lines back. Milton describes Satan as someone who “Stood like a Towr; his form had yet not lost/All his Original brightness, nor appear’d” (1.591-2).
This simile is very vague when describing someone who is supposed to represent a solid powerful being. There is no way to tell what definitive size a Tower is as they come in all shapes. It is important to also note how Satan’s “brightness” diminished, which alludes to his fallen strength. These two descriptions of Satan implies that there is no actual respect for Satan, that he is of any size suggesting that there is always a taller tower and that he holds no brightness.
This image results in the question of why does Satan actually matter compared to those who hold brightness. Here is where the readers may start to pity Satan, because of the sadness behind these descriptions Satan to becomes relatable to the reader. The power struggle between God and Satan continues in the furthering lines, which continues to aid in the idea of Satan as someone who is pitied. Within lines 620 and 623 the capitalization of “Angels” and “Almighty” are significant when looking at the power struggle between God and Satan.
These two godly, heavenly words are capitalized as though it is foreshadowing that Satan will never succeed. Having the words capitalized seem to work as a taunt towards Satan, that the Almighty Angels are the ones with the strength, they are “matchless” and Satan should not even bother battling against the “powers of immortal spirits”. Satan then goes on to describe his disappointment when battling and “How such a united force of gods, how such/As stood like these, could ever know repulse?
”(1. 629-30). Although Satan is describing how he tried to battle good, there is still a suggestion of sympathy and pity the reader might feel. By describing the gods as “united” gives the image of Satan being all alone, even though he has an army they aren’t like the “united gods”. The repetition of the “how such” demonstrates Satan’s frustration, almost like he is whining like a child, saying to the reader that they are a united force, how am I supposed to win, there is no chance.
When reading these lines there is a suggestion of a big brother, little brother hierarchy which the reader might see; God representing the older brother that always triumphs and Satan as the little brother that will never be as strong or as wise as the eldest. This sibling hierarchy image continues when Satan describes that God just “Sat on His throne, upheld by old repute”(1. 639). This childlike whining image may resonate with the reader once again as it is aiding to the sympathy and pity they are feeling throughout the story.
Here the reader sees Satan describing how God doesn’t have to do anything, he accomplished something once and is now valued while Satan has to constantly try and justify himself. God is held up by “old repute”, that he will sit on his thrown and won’t be touched because he is God and there is no hope for Satan to overcome this reputation. When Satan goes on to tell the reader that God just being God “tempted our attempt, and wrought our fall”(1. 642) he is providing the image of going into battle. Ultimately it wasn’t his fault he had to perform such a task but it was God’s “old repute” that made him go forth with the battle.
That maybe then Satan would get his own solid image instead of being compared to various towers [without the implication of there always being a taller one]. It is through these humanizing images presented that the reader is able to feel sympathy towards someone who is said to be feared due to his excess evil. By looking at Satan through different eyes it is although he becomes somewhat relatable to humans and suggests that he is misunderstood. That possibly there is more to the story between the separation of Heaven and Hell that the readers do not know.
Courtney from Study Moose
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