Tree of knowledge
Tree of knowledge
In the Paradise Lost, Milton has created the character of Satan with unparalleled brilliance and heroic energy. Satan, the leader of the fallen angels, rises to the occasion with unusual strength and inspires his comrades with his undying conviction in his own ability and that of his followers. He refuses to accept his defeat with his strong conviction that “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n” (Book -I. line 263). Satan not only convinces his audience but also charms them to plunge into action with his seductive brilliance of verbal persuasion.
It is evident in his compelling speech to Beelzebub, his motivational appeal to his legions and in the final seductive speech of Eve. Milton presents Satan with a singularity of grandeur, of suffering and a ruined splendor. He depicts Satan as embodiment of the spirit of pride and ambition- ambition not as a virtue but as the fevered lust for power, which springs from self-exaltation. Satan’s resolve to accomplish the fall of man is because of his jealousy and his desire to assert his supremacy. It is his pride that stands at the back of all his actions.
This pride and egotism vitiate all that is noble and good in him. In his compelling speech to Beelzebub he acknowledges their plight but stresses the fact they are strong now as they are still united. His rises himself as a tower of strength and states that they are in a better position to having known the strength of God. Previously it was unknown as it was untried. He declares “All is not lost; the unconquerable Will, And study of revenge, immortal hate, And courage never to submit or yield: (Book I lines 106-109) Thus, he instills confidence in Beelzebub inspiring him not to yield or surrender.
He claims that God’s rule was in danger with imminent revolt from them at any time. He outlines his course of action to fight against God. He expresses his desire to defy God’s authority once again as he is against to ‘bow or sue for grace with suppliant knee’. Obviously, Satan speaks boastfully and words his wishful thinking. Beelzebub understands Satan’s trial of God’s strength, but worries about the loss of Heaven and grieves for the punishment they were given. Satan aptly replies using all his skill and reminding Beelzebub that their task is never to do any good, but always to spoil or pervert what God does.
He urges him to leave the lake and join him for reassembling their followers. It is noteworthy that Satan projects himself as infallible though he is actually fallen. He maintains that he neither changes nor fails. On the contrary his is a story of degradation and ultimate failure. As the poem progresses Satan becomes less compelling degrading himself from a heroic warrior to a snake ultimately. Satan’s extraordinary powers of persuasion and oration are best expressed in his most appealing and inspiring speech to the fallen angels. He begins his speech first by soothing them with words of hope.
The very beginning of the speech raises the spirit of his followers with his address “O Myriads of immortal Spirits, O Powers Matchless (Book I, lines 622-23). He empathizes with their suffering by acknowledging their dire situation. He acknowledges that the better part remains with them and stresses that the power of mind. He tells him from his past experience and knowledge that a fitting answer to the God would be taking revenge by working in close design by fraud or guile. He tells them about the creation of new world and the new creatures.
Then they build Pandemonium to assert themselves of their power. Being a valiant leader he draws his fallen angels together and instills confidence in them saying stirs them to action with his most inspiring words. Satan is presented with extraordinary powers of oration and persuasion. His words have become the most inspiring quotations in literature. For example the quotations “the mind is its own place, and in itself / can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” (Book I lines 254-55). and “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.
” (Book I lines 263) are electrifying and haunt the minds of his audience. Milton honestly builds the character of Satan to great heights only to show that all evil is powerful and seems attractive. It is this power and attraction that cause the down fall of all including Satan and his followers. It should be noted that beneath the attraction lies the inherent wickedness and false ambition. Satan’s seductive speech to Eve brings out all the skill and powers of persuasion in him. It involves trickery, flattery and appeal to the commonsense and emotions.
The story of the Paradise Lost reaches climax in the Book IX as Satan successfully seduces Eve and takes revenge on God by degrading himself into the form of a serpent finally. Satan, who wished but never hoped to find Eve alone, finds her alone in the rose bower. He feels happy at it as it helps him to convince her easily when she is alone without Adam by her side. He feels he can use all his powers of persuasion without much defense from Eve. He is so overcome by her beauty, that for a moment, he forgets his evil intentions, and is ‘stupidly good.
’ She is gently supporting the stalks of flower plants and she herself is like the ‘fairest unsupported flower, away from her support. The spot where she is working surpasses all those famous gardens in mythology, history and the Bible. But the hot hell always burns in him and that reminds him of his present mission. He recollects his thoughts of mischief and takes advantage of the loneliness of eve as he wants of some marvelously beautiful tricks to engage her attention (Book IX, lines 494-531). He looks like a divine serpent with burnished neck of verdant gold and so on.
He stands erect amidst circling spires. He is more beautiful than all the famous of myth and legend. Eve is first attracted by his incomparable beauty and when he starts speaking to her with human voice, she is greatly surprised; Satan begins with flattering the beauty of Eve, which is a method to win her favor. (Book IX, lines 533 -548). He says that such an angelic beauty is wasted in the lonely forest where she is looked at by only one man. She should be served by Goddesses. Eve expresses her sense of wonder at a snake taking sense like a human being. The tempter then fabricates his story.
He says that he has obtained a recent promotion to human sense and status after eating and fruits of a tree in the garden, (Book IX, lines 568 -612). His strategy proves successful as Eve is surprised and wants to know where that tree is. The serpent (Satan in disguise) is too happy to lead her to that tree. Thus that leader of the devils leads (or misleads) the first woman to that fateful tree as a wandering fir origins fastuas or will of the wisp conducts a lost traveler into bogs and mires, where he is swallowed up, far from any help (Book IX, lines 634 – 642) .
On seeing that tree, Eve immediately recognizes it to be the forbidden tree of knowledge. She tells the serpent that God has commanded them not to eat the fruit of that. So their coming there is fruitless, though the tree is full of fruits. The serpent is astonished that scandal should have been started about so excellent a tree. As if he is greatly concerned with Adam and Eve, he expresses anger at God, who deprived them of the pleasure and profit of eating the fruit. In a great emotional fervor, he begins his lecture, and looks more impressive than all the great orators of the world (Book IX, lines 665 -668).
Satan is at his best in his seductive brilliance of persuasion. His words accompanied by his action have a compelling effect on Eve. First, he turns to the tree and plays a tribute to its great virtues. Then he turns to Eve and presents his long drawn argument (Book IX, lines 684 -733). He asks her not to believe in God’s threats of death. “Ye shall not die’, he declares. The fruit has no killing power, and he himself is the standing example for it. After eating the fruit he says he is not dead but his vital, mental and spiritual faculties are enriched.
The serpent (Satan) first surprises her with his physical and intellectual abilities. Then he uses his logical reasons in and pretends very rational in his approach. He says that when it is not forbidden to the beast (the snake), it need not be forbidden to human being as well. God will not get energy for such a minor trespass but will praise the adventurous spirit of Adam and Eve: The fruit gives them knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of good is desirable, knowledge of evil is also necessary for without knowing it, how can one avoid it?
Here anyway, the fruit has to be eaten. God, therefore, cannot hurt them, and still he is just. If he is not a just God, he need not be obeyed at all. Hence, anyway, there is no need to follow God’s word. Satan excels in his brilliance in putting a series of reasons and questions to innocent and helpless Eve. He questions Eve why God has forbidden them from eating the fruit? He does it only to keep them ignorant, low and in his control. The moment they eat the fruit their eyes will be fully opened and become Gods, knowing good and evil.
If he, a beast by tasting it, could attain human status, surely she a woman, by tasting the same fruit, ought to become at least a Goddess. If according to God’s words she dies the death only leads to a new birth as a Goddess which is good. Satan goes to the extent of proving that man is not inferior to God in any way and stresses that man also should have every thing as God has. He seems superb when he says that human beings have every right to become Gods for, how are they inferior to Gods? In fact, the earth created for man, is better than heaven, for earth is created later by God himself, with all heavens defects rectified.
Above all how does man offend the Gods in eating the fruit? What do they lose if man becomes intelligent? Or if everything goes by Gods intention and Will, how does the tree impart knowledge without His will? (Satan means to say that tree has the intrinsic power and God has no claim or control over it anybody who eats the fruits becomes wise). Thus Satan concludes his speech saying. “These and many more causes import our need of this fair fruit,” (Book IX, lines 730-731) Satan’s guileful words have won any easy entrance into Eve’s heart.
She believes his words to be true. She feels hungry as the lunch time approaches and the attractive color and fragrance of the fruit, in addition to the tempting words of Satan, encourage her to touch and taste them. Yet, she first considered it within herself (Book IX, lines. 745 -779), It is doubtless that the fruit is virtuous (powerful) which made the mute snake speak. God also did not conceal its merits and told them that it is the Tree of knowledge. But his forbidding “commends thee more. ” Human mind runs towards forbidden things.
If God has forbidden them from being wise such prohibition binds not. The threat of death also appears false as the serpent still lives. Then ‘For us alone was death invented? ” The beast, ‘friendly to man’ has brought news about his good experience. So saying she reaches for the fruit and eats it. Eve falls an easy prey to the enticing words of the Serpent. Satan’s use of trickery, flattery and his seeming logical reasons had their effect on innocent Eve. Had she not been taken by surprise by the charming golden serpent with a human voice, Eve might have found his arguments specious.
His reasons are not based on any truth or reality. All his reasons are based on self deception and pride and are aimed at tempting her to eat the fruit. Thus, Satan with his extraordinary powers of persuasion and heroic energy not only convinces his followers but also tempts them for taking revenge against God Obviously, his actions and conviction are based on self-deception and his false ambition. Works Cited Paradise Lost, John Milton http://www. dartmouth. edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_1/index. shtml
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 October 2016
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