In Milton’s classic epic poem Paradise Lost the reader gains a judicious and even controversial vision of Satan as the protagonist of the epic. This is in direct contrast with our current idea and opinion of Satan as the leading nominal of evil and darkness.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost the Prince of Darkness is our hero. Perhaps not in the true sense of the word, but rather, he is the character that the reader is able to understand. The reader can see the “human” in the fallen angel, Lucifer. Satan and his seemingly righteous battle with God are the focus of the novel. He questions the orders from one who seems to be an overbearing dictator, an oppressive boss, (our Lord and Creator) God, and is, in the ensuing period, removed from Heaven. Satan is not portrayed as the embodiment of evil, but instead as a dauntless rebel. Satan rapidly gains a following of demons and dark angels who are drawn to his dynamic nature and ways. In his new-found home of Hell, Satan and his masses begin, to question what can be done to somehow gain control of Heaven, or at least get back at it.
It is at this point that we are exposed to Satan’s good qualities. The newly crowned Lord of Hell is given all the qualities of a great leader. Satan is influential, courageous, determined, and intellectual. This characterization further endears Satan to the readers. Satan is the protagonist in this novel, not God. Satan is shown in a positive light at every opportunity while God is shown in, not necessarily a negative light but simply not as a positive position. This role and image reversal is critical in Paradise Lost as Satan can be interpreted in a new fashion.
Cesar Berdeja, from Rice University, saw Francis Ford Coppela’s Dracula as a fallen angel that was similar to Satan in Paradise Lost. This thus leads toward a pity toward evil in general. “This presentation is different from the original novel because it lacks the balance between the reader’s like and dislike of Dracula [and Satan] throughout the story.” (Berdeja-1) Both stories hold an entirely different position upon the characters of Dracula and Satan. Both are characters of evil and ones that were formed (of course looking at Satan at a strictly littoral sense at the moment) as being of evil. Yet, Coppela and Milton seem to have a sort of untamed heart for the “monster” that is at the very least, devilish. The audience is allowed to feel sympathy for these otherwise repulsive representations of evil.
In the critique of Paradise Lost by Blake Rodgers of Ohio University, the novel is stacked up against the colonization of America. Rodgers is able to make the comparison of Satan (and the rest of the demons and fallen angles) to the Puritans…as they were banished from the land of England. The brave new world that is stricken by the pilgrims seeking freedom from tyranny was pointed out to be none other than Hell itself (not literally of course). One interesting observation made was the comparison of the characters in both the colonization of the America and Paradise Lost. Satan and his minions are the exiled Puritans as previously mentioned, God could be seen as England or even as the monarchy itself, and Adam and Eve as the natives of the land, AKA the American Indians. Adam and Eve are corrupted by Satan in the novel just as they were metamorphosed by the white settlers in North America and all of the disease and suffering that was brought with the Spanish ships. The critique posses quite an interesting comparison of Satan and a colonizer. With Satan, in a manner of speaking, even colonizing Hell, and calling it his own territory that he could and would rule over, during the early half of Paradise Lost. This shows that Satan’s character is multifaceted and can be interpreted in numerous lights. The author does a good job of showing how Satan fulfills many roles within this novel. This article also points out many different ways of viewing Satan’s role in this novel.
In our society that we live in, Satan is viewed in a much different light than in the novel. Satan and things associated with him are viewed as evil, licentious, amoral, and wrong in today’s society. Things that are disliked can also be said to be the “work of the devil.” When the mention of a contemporary Satan, or Antichrist, comes about there is one name that tends to stick out among the countless names of terror…Pol Pot. Well, perhaps it may not stand as clearly as Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler, or even Osama Bin Laden, but irregardless, Pol Pot was a horrific example of a man that lead his people toward nothing but suffering. “In 1975, after five years of killings, Pol Pot [took] over Phnom Penh. He force[d] the urban people out to the country, ridding them of all their possessions. Those that refuse[d] to go [were] murdered.” (unknown-1) Pol Pot took over Cambodia claiming that it was a new era. He began the calendars anew with year zero. He brainwashed thousands by outlawing reading material for the common people. He used an easily influenced group of the youth as a bloodthirsty army. The young boys in turn turned their own people in to hordes of dead. He created a society with no economy and no religion. The Vietnamese took over Phnom Penh in 1980 and Pol Pot fled in fear. He escaped justice in 1998, when he was declared dead. Many people spoke out harshly against the cruel “devilish” actions of Pol Pot, including Dead Kennedys front man Jello Biafra. Biafra wrote a song entitled “Holiday in Cambodia”, which included the verse:
“Well you’ll work harder with a gun in your back
Slave for soldiers ‘till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
Where you’ll do what you’re told
Where the slum’s got so much soul.
Berdeja, Cesar. “Francis Ford Coppola’s Interpretation of Dracula as a Love Story” April 9, 2002
Biafra, Jello. “Holiday in Cambodia” Give me convenience OR give me death. LP. Alternative Tentacles Records, 1986.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1968
“Pol Pot.” April 9, 2002
Rodgers, Blake. “Satan and Colonization” April 8, 2002