Analyze the significance, themes, images, diction, symbols, and allusions contained in this speech by Sin from Paradise Lost.
Hast thou forgot me, then; and do I seem
Now in thine eye so foul?--once deemed so fair
In Heaven, when at th' assembly, and in sight
Of all the seraphim with thee combined
In bold conspiracy against Heaven's king,
All on a sudden miserable pain
Surprised thee, dim thine eyes and dizzy swum
In darkness, while thy head flames thick and fast
Threw forth, till on the left side opening wide,
Likest to thee in shape and countenance bright,
Then shining heavenly fair, a goddess armed,
Out of thy head I sprung? Amazement seized
All the host of Heaven; back they recoiled afraid
At first, and called me “Sin” and for a sign
Portentous held me; but, familiar grown,
I pleased, and with attractive graces won
The most averse, thee chiefly, who, full oft
Thyself in me thy perfect image viewing,
Becam'st enamored; and such joy thou took'st
With me in secret that my womb conceived
A growing burden.
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This is Sin's address to Satan when he encounters her at the gates of Hell. Although she is monstrous, being half-woman and half scaly-animal, her diction is eloquent, as seen in this passage. She is, as she herself remarks, both 'foul' and 'fair'. This use of alliteration emphazises the duality in her appearance. Her speech is an appeal to Satan, her father, who has, seemingly, forgotten her. She addresses him using the familiar form 'thou', as a reflection of their close relationship.
The manner of Sin's birth - springing fully formed from Satan's head - has a double significance. On the one level, it symbolizes the sinful thoughts that Satan had in planning a rebellion in Heaven. On another level, it is an allusion to classical mythology, recalling the birth of the goddess Athena, who emerged, fully formed and fully armed, from the head of Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. With the specific reference to Sin emerging from Satan's left side, we might also see this as a diabolical prefiguring of the birth of Eve from Adam's left side, as related later in the poem.
Having recalled her birth, Sin goes on to relate how she won favour among the heavenly rebels after the initial surprise of her unexpected appearance wore off. In fact, she came to attract Satan himself most of all, so that they coupled in secret, and she became pregnant. The result of this incestuous union was Death, whom Satan also encounters in this section of the book.
This passage shows clearly that Satan's original fault in contemplating rebellion against God has had momentous consequences. Out of this has come Sin and Death, and a further brood of monsters that Death has fathered upon Sin. The trio of Satan, Sin and Death can be seen as a diabolical version of the Holy Trinity. Satan's idea of rebellion, then, has huge repercussions.
However, despite the grim implications of this passage, it largely deals in images of beauty of the heavenly host - as Satan and his cohorts still were at the time of Sin's birth. As Sin remarks, she was then 'deemed so fair in Heav'n', as though she were angelic rather than monstrous. It was her beauty, too, that attracted Satan. Furthermore, her beauty was a reflection of his own at that time: 'Thyself in me/Thy perfect image viewing'. Sin's speech captures a sense of Satan's former glory and splendour, which steadily dwindles away in the course of the poem.
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