Was Milton on the devil's side without knowing it? Explain.

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choucksolace eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question requires you to state your personal opinion and then support it with evidence from the text. Reread Paradise Lost and pinpoint passages in which Milton describes the devil's personality, words, and actions. Does Milton ever portray the devil in a positive light?

Milton claims that his reason for writing Paradise Lost is to "justify the ways of God to man," that is, to tell the story behind biblical events and reveal God's infinite power, wisdom, and mercy. However, authors are not always consciously aware of all the facts that influence their writing and they do not always reveal their true motivations. Therefore, we can consider if there is another side to the story Milton tells.

Although Milton portrays Lucifer's attempt to usurp God's power, his fall from grace, and his subsequent role in Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the author also reveals the many admirable qualities that the devil possesses. Lucifer, who later takes the name Satan, is a strong leader who chooses to rally the fallen angels and builds his own kingdom. He makes the most out of a bad situation and uses his wit and cunning to lead the first humans astray. Even though he faces an eternity of torment in Hell, he asserts that it is "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven," a sentiment with which many of us might relate; we, too, value our freedom and independence and oppose oppressive regimes.

Consider if there are other aspects of the text that present mixed messages or reveal the complexities of Satan's character.