The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Paradise Lost

Recently I read "Paradise Lost." Actually, I read it twice. In a row. I had read it a number of years ago, but I really wanted to study it, just to make sure I wasn't crazy. I think it's a terrific poem. A true epic. However, I think John Milton was trying to get a certain message across that he failed to properly convey. I believe he was trying to write an evil villain, but wrote an antihero instead.

Milton tries to make Satan's declaration that God is a tyrant untrue because it's Satan who says it, but reading the God books of "Paradise Lost" kind of makes God look like a tyrant all on its own. So Milton's experiment to make clear the ways of God toward man failed. Satan, when he's soliloquizing without anyone to tempt, expresses his wish that he could change, but he was made the way he was, so it was God's creation that made Satan so proud.

I don't buy the argument that it was intentional to show that men were fallen people. Why make your message so covered up in man's sin that it's mistaken for truth? He may not have meant to, but Milton's Satan was a humanist. He was the hero of "Paradise Lost" who rebelled against injustice and who brought knowledge to the humans, like Prometheus gave fire to humans. He is a lot easier to relate to and possesses many heroic qualities ("I'd rather suffer in hell than be a slave in heaven"). This led William Blake to write that Milton is "a true Poet, and of the Devil's party without knowing it."

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea about me, because I know religion is a touchy subject, I am not a Satan worshiper of any kind. I don't worship anything. I like to think of myself as a hopeful agnostic, and I don't want anyone to feel like I am slandering their religious beliefs. But I read "Paradise Lost" cover to cover twice, and this was the interpretation I took away from it.


  1. You...wanted to make sure you weren't crazy for possessing a fairly common interpretation of Paradise Lost?

  2. Hey, a lot of people can be crazy. Look at the Tea Party! ;)

  3. I haven't read Paradise Lost, but most versions I've heard about Satan being cast out of heaven do make him sound like a designated villain.