Paradise Lost Essay

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Paradise Lost, Book I Analysis

Use of Imagery in Paradise Lost -- Book I

Paradise Lost offers an introduction to the story of original sin. Milton uses powerful imagery and allegory to relay the Biblical account of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis and forfeiture of the Garden of Eden. The story of good and evil is presented in a unique and interesting narrative form. In Book I, we are introduced to Satan the Devil (also referred to as the Serpent) who fancies himself equal to God and declares war against him. Many angels chose to follow Satan and all are cast out of Heaven by God. Book I takes us on the journey of Satan and his ban of fallen angels as they are face their exile and torment in Hell. Chaos, as Hell is referred to, is a dark and unclean place. Much of the story is a description of it and the way Satan and his rebel army mobilize. It is chock full of sensory analogies and metaphors.

Milton articulates the conditions that Satan and his outcast followers find themselves in by engaging the reader's five senses, using creative imagery to advance the story. Lines 50-52 cite that for nine days that Satan and his evil followers lay helpless in a lake of hellfire. This presents a frightening and painful image, alluding to the severity of their crime. The torturous and dismal nature of Hell is depicted as "dungeon-like" with thunderbolts from God reigning down. It is described as a world of lost pleasures and unending pain. The reader can vividly imagine the agony and searing burning sensation of being consumed by fire. Hell is referred to as a "belching, unhealthy body" and Milton uses metaphors such as "eclipsed sun" and "dark pit" to convey the horrid atmosphere.

Satan and his army are deprived of the gift of sight and the light of Heaven. The fire and flames that burn them offer no visibility, except to reveal scenes of anguish and torment. In lines 62-64, Milton writes: "A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round / As one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames / No light, but rather darkness visible / Served only to discover sights of woe." Thus, Hell is revealed to us as being devoid of light and sight and only offering scenes of hopelessness and sorrow. A deafening or unkind "silence" is poetically described Line 83. The olfactory senses are also stirred in Milton's depiction of Hell, with the stench described as "sulpherous" at Line 69.

Milton's depiction of Hell creates feelings of fear and trepidation in the reader. Satan's selfish pride has resulted in being exiled to such a ghastly and nightmarish place. The imagery of Hell cleverly serves as a backdrop to Satan's character, which reflects a dark nature lacking anything positive and good. Satan is depicted as the arrogant (although charismatic) leader of the legions of the fallen angels. He begins to become more aware of the magnitude of the situation when he rouses from his stupor and finds himself chained to a lake of fire. His attitude can best be described as insolent -- even in the face of defeat. In Line 92, he reflects on how far they have fallen, but defiantly goes on to comment that he will not apologize, repent or change his position. He then speaks to his deformed second commander, Beelzebub. He tries to reassure him that they will regain a place in heaven. He speaks of "unconquerable will" and "immortal hate" and continues his diatribe, accusations and challenges against God.

Book I allows us to see exactly how God chose to punish the fallen angels. At Line 146-148, Beelzebub says "Have left us this our spirit and strength intire / Strongly to suffer and support our pains, / That we may so suffice his vengeful ire." God did not annihilate them completely; rather, he preserved their spirits and permitted them to actually feel pain and suffering. This conjures up images of the demons as being more materialized and less ethereal. They are able to experience humanlike pain and sensations. Satan explains that God's intention is for them to suffer and languish in Hell for all eternity.


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