The original sin that led to humanitys fall in the Garden of Eden is by far the worst sin committed by humankind. It is this sin that led to future sins. This original sin must be emphasized by writers to depict the evil involved in it. In writing Paradise Lost, John Milton recognizes this fact and uses a variety of literary techniques to stress the evil in the story over the good. The techniques used include a series of parallels with the parallel between good and evil being first and foremost as well, as symmetry to keep the poem in balance. Paradise Lost is a poem essentially about the origin of sin and evil, as a result, Milton presents evil in a more coercive manner than good.
Satan and his followers in Paradise Lost are presented as being more evil than God and his disciples are good. God addresses the Son to be in the likeness of himself in Book three by saying, “The radiant image of his glory sat, his only Son.”(Bk. 3, 63-64). Although this implies that the Son is a model of perfection as is God, it does not clarify it by stating it outright. Milton definitely portrays Satans evil in Book four by asserting that Satan is hell and that evil is his good because good has been lost to him. (Bk. 4, lines 75, 108-110). Satans moral state further decays in Book nine as detailed in a soliloquy at the beginning of the book by Satan. Satan recognizes his descent into bestiality after once being in contention with the gods to sit on top of the hierarchy of angels. He is unhappy with this “foul descent” and in turn wants to take out his grief on humanity. Despite recognizing that revenge eventually becomes bitter, Satan wants to make others as miserable as he is. It is in destruction that he finds comfort for his ceaseless thoughts. (Bk. 9, lines 129-130, 163-165). Satan is described at length in an epic simile that compares his great size to that of mythical figures. This simile drags on for sixteen lines of direct comparison. This comparison to mythical figures makes the reader think more about the subject therefore invoking more thought about Satans powerful stature. Due to the drama and persuasiveness of Satans rhetoric, he is the most well developed character in Paradise Lost.
Both the angels and devils and heaven and hell can be contrasted along with Satan and the Son. Milton depicts the angels as being in a state of eternal joy by singing, “With jubilee, and loud hosannas filled Th eternal regions.” (Bk. 3, lines 348-349.) Nevertheless the angels are not being presented with as much intensity as the devils are in Book one. Despite having been cast to hell the fallen angels are still shown to continue on in their old ways as if nothing has happened to them. Mammon leads some of the devils to the hills to loot gold. (Bk. 1, lines 670-690.) Milton aptly describes the fallen angels by giving the names that they were worshipped with and a succinct description. Milton employs an epic simile in Book one to exaggerate the number of fallen angels and hence the amount of evil: “His legions, angel forms, who lay entranced, thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks in Vallombrosa.” (Bk. 1, lines 301-303.) Hell is described as the most appalling place in existence as it is “A dungeon horrible, on all sides round as one great furnace flamed; yet from those flames no light, but rather darkness visible served only to discover sights of woe.” (Bk. 1, lines 61-64.) The devils build a palace for themselves called Pandemonium which means all-demons, in contrast to the Pantheon which means all-gods. This name demonstrates the absolute evil of the building as it mocks any sentiment of goodness while at the same time exhibiting the evil within. In terms of evil and detail, Satans subordinates are presented in much the same way as himself.
Humanity falls in the Garden of Eden because evil eventually conquers good. Because evil defeats good in Paradise Lost it must be treated with more emphasis. When the fall of humankind is being described in Book nine, Satan is no longer described as a feeble underdog, he is now a powerful leader filled with rage. His rage is portrayed in Book nine after he overcomes how beautiful Eve is, “But the hot Hell that always in him burns, though in mid Heaven, soon ended his delight.” (Bk. 9, lines 467-468.) At first Eve resists the allure of the apple and the knowledge that comes with it but she eventually gives in to the persuasive serpent, thus departing from the realm of the innocent and stepping into the evil. The simple act of Eve eating the apple serves as the climax of the book. Milton builds up to this epic event by constructing the sentence in a highly symmetrical manner. Two clauses and one periodic sentence precede the moment when Eve eats the apple. This style of construction results in the meaning becoming clear only at the very end when she eats the apple.
The portrayal of the council in hell is more powerful and detailed than that of heaven.The council in heaven mainly involves just the Son and God whereas the council in Hell involves a multitude of devils in a scene that has much more detail and emotion. It is emotion that Milton seeks to arouse when writing Book two. The sense of grandeur that comes with the epic poem is being evoked through the elevated style and the comprehensiveness of the council scene. The departure of Satan is much more powerfully described than the departure of the Son:
Then of their session ended they bid cry
With trumpets regal sound the great result:
Toward the four winds four speedy cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy
By heralds voice explained; the hollow abyss
Heard far and wide, and all the host of Hell
With deafening shout returned them loud acclaim
Milton uses the epic convention when writing Book two and in doing so convinces the reader to believe that evil is poised to triumph over good.
The fall in the Garden of Eden marks humanitys entry into a world of sin forevermore. It is because of the severity of this sin that evil is portrayed in a much more convincing manner than good. When writing this poem Milton sought to coerce people into believing his view on the loss of paradise. He does not write it as a standard poem that is written in a non bias way, instead he forces his view on the reader as if his opinion is the way it is.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, New York: Norton, 1996.