Paradise Lost Reflection: Who is to Blame?

As someone who has very little knowledge of the bible and its characters and references besides what is impossible to miss in mainstream media (and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens) I have found that I am struggling a bit reading Paradise Lost. It seems like there are a lot of references or phrases that are flying over my head that would help give me some context and understanding of this novel. Besides this, one thing from this novel that I am fascinated with is the treatment of the character of Satan. One scene in particular stood out: in book 4 when Gabriel asks Satan why he has left hell to come to Eden against God’s wishes. Satan responds saying:

“But this question ask’d

Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain?

Who would not, finding way, break loose from hell,

Though thither doom’d? Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,

And boldly venture to weather place 

Farthest from pain, where thou might’st hope to change

Torment with ease, and soonest recompense

Dole with delight, which in this place i sought:”

Paradise Lost, Milton, Book IV, 888

Here Satan essentially says, “who would willingly choose to stay in hell? If you were in that situation and you had the option you would leave too. Of course I would come to the place that is supposed to be painless, when pain was what I was stuck in.” And honestly, who can say that this is not a fair response? Additionally, Satan also questions the fact that he was even capable of leaving hell in the first place. He says 

“His will who bound us? Let him surer bar

His iron gates, if he intends our stay

In that dark durance: thus much what was ask’d,

The rest is true, they found me where they say: 

But that implaces not violence or harm.”

Paradise Lost, Milton, Book IV, 897

Satan is exploring the fact that if God is supposedly in control of everything, if he really wanted Satan to stay in hell and not be able to access Adam and Eve, then he would have been able to prevent that from happening. Satan cannot place all blame on God for his actions, but he can fully say that God could have stopped him at any move if he had so wished. In class on 11/9 we had a discussion about God’s complicitness in Satan’s actions, or if God was a driving force in all of these actions, and in fact wanted Satan to bring about the fall of Adam and Eve, and set them up for their own disgrace. Here Satan makes a compelling point for this argument, that I am inclined to believe. If God had truly not wanted this all to happen

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6 thoughts on “Paradise Lost Reflection: Who is to Blame?

  1. I really like your analysis. This is certainly a hard read if you don’t have the religious background knowledge. Essentially this scene is calling to the story of genesis which is the first book in the bible. Adam and Eve are the only human beings and they rule over a perfect land without any problems with God who can see and talk with them. God creates one rule for them which is that they cannot eat the fruit of a specific tree. He refuses to tell them why. Satan takes the form of a snake and lives in that tree. One day he offers the fruit to Eve who refuses at first but is convinced because the devil tells her to question God and think for herself, after all, he wouldn’t even tell her why she couldn’t eat it. When she does, she gains knowledge and the abilities of free thought. She then convinces Adam to eat the fruit too so that he can see what she sees. God finds out that they betrayed his rule because he finds them clothed and they did not previously have the knowledge to know that they were naked. In anger, he damns the entire world and human race forever. Deciding that all people are born out of this original sin and that they all deserve to go to hell because of it. And that’s how the bible starts and how we lost paradise supposedly. The devil can then make a pretty clear argument that an all powerful God would have been able to stop these events from happening. He either isn’t truly all powerful or he wanted to damn the human race.

  2. I completely relate to missing so many Bible references or themes! I agree that Satan comes across as very reasonable in the first scene you mention. Like, obviously no one wants to be in hell. I also agree that God either wanted humanity to be damned, or was truly powerless to stop it. It’s hard to know what the Christian God, or Milton’s God, wants.

  3. This is cool, I like this for so many reasons, let’s begin. First thing, I love that Satan is shown as not being evil but just not being obedient. It is the reason he fell from heaven after all and it is not a very good reason in my opinion so obviously he would take any chance to leave. The next part is something I like a lot as well (fair warning is you are a Christian, I’m gonna bash God a little bit), God is all powerful and all knowing, if that is true then he is not benevolent. Just by looking at what goes on in our world where innocents are killed shows this. At the end of the day it seems like God is just someone who likes being entertained by those that he has power over and the way they treat Satan shows this.

  4. This is a great post! I think your work here with Paradise Lost draws upon theories regarding morality and responsibility in harmful situations. Essentially, how I see it, responsibility is blurry at best. It is hard to find the true source of action, and it is important to call into question the morality of intention and the morality of action. Is God absent of responsibility in this scenario because he did not necessarily intend to create chaos or harm? Or is he responsible because he did not consider these ramifications and outcomes? It is a really important topic to consider and you did a great job discussing it here. Great work!!

  5. I think it’s a really cool idea how you mention your idea that God could have easily stopped Satan from getting to Adam and Eve if he wanted to. God is always spoken about in the highest manner and has the ability to do anything. I too agree that he could have been stopped at any moment if he’s the almighty power he’s made out to be! Interesting post!

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