An Unexpected Mash-up

Okay, let’s talk about Paradise Lost Book 1 because WOW. I had a really really hard time with the 16th century literature it was not my jam mostly because I felt like a dog searching for a squirrel I had no clue what was happening. Paradise Lost though, this was some vivid imagery and it all clicked. However, I think the only reason I am really understanding this is because of all the Sundays my parents sent me to Catholic Sunday school. My question is, how do readers who aren’t familiar with biblical references get a full understanding of this story? I can take a stab at answering this but I would love to hear how other people took this book with out having that background information. I think the images here were clear for me because I had the images from the Bible, but they took a funky new turn like I was watching a Harry Potter Movie. Okay no, let me correct that. Reading Paradise lost felt like I was watching a film where Billie Eilish was narrating and sining the original bible from the side of hell, Percy Jackson was swinging his sword around, and the epic battles were straight out of The Last Kingdom. That was a mouth full I know. Also, the fallen devil angels reminded me of the dark angels from Wizards of Waverley Place, remember when Justin falls for that blonde one who isn’t a real angel she’s the dark angel. That was the first time I ever felt betrayed by a character not going to lie. Hahaha, okay sorry for the Disney Channel reference but that was what was playing in my brain when reading this.

This Billie Eilish song and video very much reminds me of the first scene where the Angel’s fall from Heaven to Hell. I remember taking a class at UNH on British Literature and my professor was obsessed with Billie Eilish, yes, my suit wearing, sixty-five year old professor would bump to Billie, I can not even tell you how many hours we spent just watching her music videos ahaha. Anywho, this video was productive because it aided our understanding of a visual depiction of the underworld or better known hell. This song is challenging that hell is on earth just as much as it is after death which I think is one of the prominent themes through this book. It felt like a constant struggle for power but the devil uses fear as it’s driving force where God or divine power uses hope. We see literature talk about these two driving forces for power, look at the Hunger Games for instance. This theme hasn’t gone anywhere, it has just evolved for the common reader to enjoy it better. There was one factor that really caught my attention though, mankind, we humans, aren’t the ones in power in this story. We are simply pawns or the embodiment of sin or faith. Humans are the ones who carry out the actions we are called to do, may that be a call from the devil himself and his followers or from God and his angels. It is an interesting concept that good and bad are both depicted as human, or souls. Also thought provoking that both all powerful images are male. I wonder what God and the Devil would look like as women.

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3 thoughts on “An Unexpected Mash-up

  1. My dad is Catholic and I went to Sunday school for a few years growing up, but all in all I’m not that familiar with the bible so I feel like I’m missing out on a lot reading Paradise Lost! I feel like I might have a better understanding of it if I were more familiar with Christianity, but sometimes when the class starts discussing bible stories and things like that I find myself a bit lost.
    I also think it’s really interesting that the devil and God are both masculine figures… I thought the Christian God was supposed to be a combination of masculine and feminine (from what I understand), but he’s always referred to as ‘He’ and usually depicted visually in a traditionally masculine way, with a beard and all that. I wonder what effects the depictions of the devil and God have on our understanding of gender and gender roles? It seems masculinity is at the forefront of both good and evil, so what does that leave for everyone else?

  2. Yeah, a full ‘understanding’ of Milton’s Paradise Lost requires a thorough knowledge of the bible, Greek and Roman myth, 17th century politics and science, and some other stuff I’m forgetting right now. But our goal should never be full ‘understanding,’ I think, it should be deliberate, critical engagement with a text. And because we don’t have all the world and all the time in which to do that, that’s going to mean focusing on individual details that stand out to you and digging into those. In other words, don’t feel discouraged that ‘mastery’ of Milton seems out of reach. It isn’t the goal!

  3. I have been struggling reading “Paradise Lost”, and I think it has a lot to do with my lack of knowledge about the Bible/Christianity. I read your post earlier this week, and because you mentioned your knowledge helping you, I decided to call my step-dad who could probably quote the Bible word for word from memory. It has been so helpful to hear his depiction of what happens in the Bible in comparison to “Paradise Lost”! It was interesting to not only see the differences and understand what was being discussed, but to also talk about the differences with him. As much as this helped me understand “Paradise Lost”, it helped me understand the Christian religion better as well. When I think about that, I wish I had reached out to him earlier to get the “religion for dummies” synopsis before reading a majority of the texts we have discussed.

    Also, your thought about God and the Devil being depicted as men is interesting. Like you, I wonder how the story would be different if they were women, especially when we think of stereotypes and typical gender roles. I feel like a lot of the stories would be different. It would definitely be an interesting read!

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