Satan is one of the central characters of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost which is based on the Christian story of the fall of humanity. Making Satan the main antagonist of the poem, Milton shows the inner struggle in the character’s soul and the process of his devolution, depicting him as a fallen angel gradually transforming into a devil.
The beginning of the process of Satan’s devolution is depicted in the first book when this character starts forming an army of fallen angels, planning a rebellion against God. The main factors which influenced Satan’s decision to organize an attack on God were his arrogance, enviousness and unruliness. The main fallen angel prefers reigning in Hell to serving in Heaven.
Even coming to realization that God’s power cannot be overcome, Satan suggests uniting the efforts of all his followers for planning a rebellion against God. Convincing his followers to make evil out of good, Satan sounds persuasive.
In general, Milton’s presentation of the main negative character in the first book surprisingly makes Satan look as a hero of the poem. Showing how powerful Satan is and even comparing him to titans, the author describes the process of devolution of the main antagonist.
Presenting Satan as a military hero who manages to unite hundreds of thousands of fallen angels for creating a powerful army of demons in the first book, Milton shows the inner processes in the soul of the main negative character which preconditioned his devolution.
The process of Satan’s devolution continues in Milton’s second book which illuminates the debates in Hell concerning the plans of taking revenge on God by doing harm to a new race called Man. After building the Pandemonium, the castle of devils, some of the fallen angels settled down and offered to stop their struggle against God, satisfying with what they have. Satan, as the leader of Hell, could not be satisfied with the achieved results and his inner suffering makes him continue his planning of rebellions.
God’s power remained the object of Satan’s envy, and along with Satan’s hurt pride, it motivated the main negative character to build plans for making evil out of good and taking a revenge on God. Thus, the process of Satan’s devolution was not over and at this stage, Satan’s plans become more sophisticated. The main antagonist realizes that the direct attacks of God are senseless and decides to use alternative methods.
The direct protests and attacks are replaced with the insidious plans of tempting men and hurting the feelings of God who favors this newly created race. Satan’s continuing devolution prevents him from putting an end to the struggle against God and motivates him to invent new more sophisticated methods of attacks.
With all the attempts of making evil out of good which were not crowned with success, the tension in Satan’s soul grew, continuing the process of his degradation. In the fourth book, Milton shows Satan’s despair which intensifies suffering of the main negative character and catalyzes his insidious attacks of God.
At this stage the process of Satan’s devolution is irreversible and he will never be forgiven by God. “Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;/ Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least” (Milton Book IV). Mentioning remorse in the fourth book, the author implies that previously the main fallen angel hesitated about his actions and his degradation can be regarded as a gradual process.
The despair which overwhelms Satan in the fourth book is expressed in his soliloquies. Milton’s depiction of Satan cannot be regarded as single-valued. Demonstrating the inner struggle and suffering of Satan, the author tries to view the evil from various perspectives, not limiting the depiction of the fallen angel to mere presentation of his actions.
Initiating the readers into the processes in the inner world of the main antagonist, Milton allows them to understand the preconditions of his disobedience, drawing the parallels with their own weaknesses.
With the continuing process of Satan’s devolution, in the ninth book he is deprived of the feelings of remorse and his inner struggle is almost over. Good is lost for the fallen angel forever and will never enter his soul again. The view of the beauty of earth makes Satan feel anguish. He cannot enjoy the beauty of this wonderful world and this is the only reason for his hesitation before proceeding to actions this time.
Preoccupied with making evil out of good and fulfilling his insidious plans, the fallen angel forgets about remorse and there is no inner struggle in him anymore. The absence of doubts concerning his evil inclinations in the ninth book shows the final stage of Satan’s devolution when the back side has overcome the good side of his soul entirely.
Showing the gradual process of Satan’s devolution which started from the inner struggle in the character’s soul and finished when the good was forever lost to him, Milton made his main antagonist a complex and dynamic character which transforms from an angel into a devil.
Milton, John. “Paradise Lost”. Dartmouth College Website. n. d. Web. 18 December 2010.