Kevin's Reviews > Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost by John Milton
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In Milton’s Paradise Lost, we find a ‘perfect’ world which becomes ‘marred’ by original sin. The act, in defiance of God’s will for man – comes about through the eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This act is said to lead to the downfall of the world and the loss of all that is ‘perfect’. As a result of this act, our world falls from grace.

In the book, which retells both the fall of the archangel (who becomes Satan) from the kingdom of heaven as well as the famous origin story of man from the book of Genesis – where original sin is brought about by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Milton's purpose, which is stated in Book I, of Paradise Lost is to "justify the ways of God to men".

In order to accomplish his goal, Milton first attempts to rationalize and justify Satan’s accusation toward God’s angels that their unquestioning obedience toward the will of God somehow represents a loss of ‘freedom’. This accusation is best understood through the line “Nay curs’d be thou; since against his thy will / Chose freely what it now so justly rues.” (Milton 1975:87). In the poem, Milton presents Satan as a ‘misguided’ character who misunderstands the very meaning of what it means to be free. Satan’s fundamental misunderstanding of freedom is best embodied through the quote in Lines 258-263:

Here at least / we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built / Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: / Here we may reign secure, and in my choice / to reign is worth ambition though in Hell: / Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.

Later in the poem, in Book IV, lines 776-1015, when Satan encounters the angels of heaven, they do not recognize him any longer. This leads Satan to say “know ye not me? You must be really low in the heavenly pecking order to not recognize me”. In many ways, like a disobedient child seeking attention for his misdeeds, this intimate moment represents a yearning by Satan to be recognized by those who are ‘truly filial’.

When questioned about their perceived lack of freedom, the angels respond, “Freely we serve / Because we freely love, as in our will / To love or not; in this we stand or fall.” For Milton, this quote seems to embody the entirety of the argument against Satan’s criticism of the Angels’ obedience. Subsequently, his argument can be summed up as “you are free to choose, but recognize that the best choice lies within God’s plan.” For Milton, only through the understanding of this concept, may we become able to be aware of our “true filial freedom”.

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Quotes Kevin Liked

John Milton
“For so I created them free and free they must remain.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost

Reading Progress

July 14, 2016 – Started Reading
July 14, 2016 – Shelved
August 1, 2016 – Finished Reading

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