Discuss the conflict between God vs. Satan in Paradise Lost.
Answer: In the poem, Paradise Lost Satan was thrown out of heaven for rebelling against God and all that is good. He was the archangel and is the most beautiful and perfect angel, but he was not so perfect because he had flaws. Some of the flaws he had were pride that led to ambition and jealousy that led deception. The flaw that led him to destruction was pride, because since he was the most beautiful angel, he believed he was the greatest in heaven. He questioned why should he serve God, and evidently led a rebellion against God in a chance to overthrow Him.
John Milton divided the characters in his epic poem Paradise Lost into two sides, one side under God representing good, and the other side under Satan representing evil and sin. Milton first introduced the reader to the character Satan, the representative of all evil, and his allegiance of fallen angels that aided in his revolt against God. Only later did Milton introduce the reader to all powerful God, leader and creator of all mankind (John). This introduction of Satan first led the reader to believe acts of sin were good, just like Eve felt in the Garden of Eden when she was enticed by Satan to eat the fruit off of the Tree of Knowledge. The later introduction of The Almighty had the reader’s change their feelings towards sin, as the ways of God were introduced to them and these ways were shown to be the way to feel and believe. This levy of good vs. evil carried on throughout the poem with the interaction of Satan and his fallen angels with God and his son in Heaven.
The common representation of sin and evil came from the lead character in the battle against God, Satan. His name means “enemy of God.” He was a former high angel from Heaven named Lucifer, meaning, “light bearer” (John). Satan became jealous in Heaven of God’s son and formed an allegiance of angels to battle against God, only for God to cast them out of Heaven into Hell. This did not bother Satan at first since he became the leader in Hell rather than a servant in Heaven. Satan believed that it was, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”. Much of Satan’s reliance on getting things accomplished came from his ability to lie and deceive. He lied to the fallen angels about the Son and his “vice-regency” in Heaven in order for them to follow him instead of The Son. He also concealed his true self by hiding in the body of a serpent when presenting himself to Eve in the Garden of Eden. She would not have been as easily tempted into sin had he not concealed his true form. In addition, Satan showed the reader a large amount of anger and destructiveness when he planned his revenge on God (Milton 62). Satan even found pleasure in the pain and destruction of other people and things, “To do aught good never will be our task, / But ever to do ill our soul delight”. It is clear the feelings and views of Satan represented evil.
With Satan and his battle against God, he formed an allegiance of fallen angels to help him carry out his evil goals. Satan placed his chief supporter named Beelzebub in charge of the fallen angels, and getting them together to form the Demonic Council to serve as an administration for Hell (John). Milton described Beelzebub as being a ” Majestic, wise statesman” in his leadership abilities of this council. Although Satan put Beelzebub in charge, it was not because of Beelzebub’s abilities, but due to the fact Satan was able to trick his chief supporter easily into expressing his beliefs instead of Beelzebub’s own. With Satan’s ability to deceive Beelzebub easily, he will easily mislead the Demonic Council into carrying out his evil ideas against God in Heaven.
The council held a meeting in the capital of Hell called Pandemonium, where the reader is introduced to all of the fallen angels, and learned their evil ideas of revenge against God and Heaven. The first fallen angel that spoke at the meeting was Moloch, who was the “strongest and fiercest spirit that fought in Heaven, now fiercer by despair”. He came forth with a “suicidal battle philosophy”, promoting open war in Heaven. He was very aggressive in nature, and did not care if God destroyed the fallen angels in the battle, as long as they fought in revenge. The second fallen angel that spoke at the meeting was the false and hollow angel named Belial. He represented true passivity towards fighting. He conceded to God’s power, realizing they would easily be defeated (John). Up next came the “least erected spirit that fell from Heaven” named Mammon, who was characterized by greed and tangible wealth. When Mammon was in Heaven, he desired the golden floors he walked on better than desiring the wealth and virtue available from God who ruled over them (John). The reader saw this same desire in his philosophy of what the angels should do in Hell, which was to stay there and exploit its wealth rather than war in Heaven against God. The final speaker at the meeting was Beelzebub, who relayed the earlier thoughts of Satan, which were to go after the new creation of God, man, rather than take the chance of fighting in Heaven.. Since these ideas were those of Satan, he quickly adjourned the meeting, and the plans to accomplish his idea were begun.