Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where I finally read Paradise Lost

I have had the book forever and it's pretty famous and I was an English Lit major and so, I thought I should probably read it.

So I have read Book One so far and it's actually pretty cool. Ok so Book One is basically just a catalogue of demons, ok? And everyone in the world has already pointed out that perhaps when Milton went out to humanize Satan and to make him the adversary worthy of God, perhaps, just perhaps he went overfar and as a result Satan is now way Cooler Than God.

Part of it is that God hasn't entered the picture yet. Now Milton is probably working the scenes a little bit, laying the groundwork and making us anticipate and salivate, so when God draws up in his limo, his entrance will be all the more brilliant, but meanwhile Satan is working the room like no other and giving us his version of the events so that God comes off a bit Machiavellian and you actually start to feel a bit sorry for Satan.

You see, Satan charges God with instigating the rebellion:
"But He who reigns Monarch in Heav'n...His Regal State Put forth at full but still His strength concealed, Which tempted our attempt and wrought our fall." Book One, Ln 637-642.

Sort of begs the question:
Did God create Hell as a sort of boundary maintenance mechanism?
After all, what is Heaven without Hell?

Book One is thus Satan as underdog, as victimised victim, all proud and offended dignity in defeat, and at this point I am all for him and "his dark designs." Also he has some great lines: "The mind is its own place and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven!"

Milton's proposed reason for writing the epic is to "justify the ways of God to men." So the question is, did Satan run away from under his hands? But possibly I should read more before answering this.

After Book One, I now think of Satan and his rebels, the denizens of hell, as a sort of diaspora community. Hell is nothing more than exile from Heaven, an exile from which they cannot return. So how do you not feel bad for Satan? At least, for us from Dharamsala, return is still possible.

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