God and Satan in Paradise Lost

A paper discussing the dialectic nature of God and Satan in the poem “Paradise Lost” by John Milton.

The paper examines John Milton’s Poem Paradise Lost, showing the poem to be a struggle between good and evil; this being the case, it would seem only logical that God would be the protagonist of the poem, and Satan the antagonist. The paper observes that God in the poem makes for a rather lackluster hero: Milton’s God is hardly the caring, loving and omnipotent deity of Christianity. It shows that the result of Milton’s portrayal of Satan and God is an account of the fall that is anything but a straightforward allegory of good and evil. Neither Satan nor God is completely good or completely evil; in both, the two qualities are joined in the same person.
Satan, in contrast, is a fully developed character with vivid emotions; he exhibits both fear and remorse, and is therefore often capable of winning the reader’s sympathy. Milton goes so far as to use devices common to other works of epic poetry, such as Beowulf or The Odyssey, to depict Satan as an epic hero, as a man of stature, nobility, and great deeds. It often seems as though Milton is subtly encouraging the reader to empathize with Satan’s struggle against Heaven. Given that Milton himself declares, in the poem’s opening lines, that his intention is to justify the ways of God to man (I, 26), it is rather difficult to determine why he seemingly reverses the roles of protagonist and antagonist.