The Fallen Archangel: Defeated by Pride and Revenge - Analysis of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost.

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Children believe Satan to be a small red devil-creature, with horns and a pitchfork. He is simply characterized as "evil" and the exact opposite of God. John Milton, however, had a different idea of what Satan was like, why he was who he was, and what might have happened to him. Milton, through his epic literary piece, Paradise Lost, characterizes Satan as a beautiful misfortune, a fallen pride, and a revengeful adversary to the Ruler of Heaven, portraying Satan as somewhat misunderstood, yet thoroughly conniving and malicious.

In the first part of the epic, Milton focuses on Hell and the fallen archangels, depicting Satan as a strong leader and a hero. Satan rises off the burning lake and makes a great speech to the others about how they can still try to defeat God. He gives them hope and believes that they are not in the worst position at all.

Satan has a chance for forgiveness, but his pride keeps him from turning back to Heaven. He states, "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" (1, 263). He is blinded by his conceit to his mistake, and pride becomes one of his greatest shortcomings as he doesn't realize his place in the universe. Satan later becomes obsessed with the idea of trying to "grieve" God by creating mischief and misfortune in God's new created world of mankind. The readers feel pity and sympathy for Satan in the first parts of the epic because at times he seems remorseful and sad. However, Satan's feelings quickly twist back to those of pride and revenge, allowing his true nature to be revealed as he continues on his conquest to secure the fall of mankind and ultimately challenge God. He seeks out Adam and Eve, only to deceive them, yet unlocks the door they can enter of salvation from God. Unfortunately, this is Satan's paramount downfall. Satan also does not realize that all the power he holds and all the strength he seems to gain can be taken away in an instant by our impeccable God. In this way, the epic takes an ironic turn, because Satan's conquest is truly hopeless and his position adamantly controlled; he will never win against God.

Vengeance is an overwhelming feeling that often control's a character's choices and actions. The feeling blinds them to moral judgment and empowers them to go to great lengths to achieve their revenge. Satan is clearly one of these characters. Satan will stop at nothing to get back at God for banishing him from Heaven, although it was his own fault in the first place. His feeling of vengeance is strong and consumes him throughout the epic, and with the addition of his resilient pride, it is lucid that he will never be able to achieve the type of power and glory that he desires. Satan desires to be glorified and renowned, but not for any of the right reasons. He seeks great revenge and that is what drives him to dishonest actions, such as the actions involving Adam and Eve. Satan directly goes against God and dares the status of the universe by refusing to give up. His revenge and unfeasible desires are traits in Satan that make him the unadulterated evil creature that he transforms into and becomes for eternity.

It is distressing to see how a loved archangel could possibly aspire to defeat God, and even more painful to realize that Satan had the option of turning back and receiving redemption from a loving God but was hindered by his negative characteristics and shortcomings. The readers acknowledge the transformation of Satan from highest archangel to a vile snake as he continues to struggle and rebel against God. He takes the form of several different creatures, ranging from cherubs to toads, all degenerating as he keeps transforming. His transformation reveals how conflicted his character is and how the farther he strays away from God, the worse off he becomes. Milton is trying to teach a lesson, as well as explain the state of affairs in the middle of time between Satan and God. The message is one of faith and loyalty towards God, and to remember that forgiveness is only a question away. Milton was a devout Christian, and although is he in no way trying to depict this tale as being based on real fact, but he wants to convey a Christian message.

In conclusion, through detailed descriptions of Satan's conceit, deceit, and pure wickedness, Milton gives the readers a fantastic myth about why the world is how it is today. The purpose of Paradise Lost is to assert eternal providence and justify the ways of God to mankind and with strong eloquence Milton gives this purpose success. Satan's downfall was ultimately caused by his own errors and character flaws; it was his pride, vengeance, selfishness, and spiteful determination that rendered him to rebel and launch his own destruction.

Bibliography: John Milton's Paradise Lost text