Heaven’s War is Brought To Adam
The war in Heaven is probably intended to be read as a metaphor, encapsulating spiritual lessons in an epic scenario so that we (and Adam) can understand what Raphael is talking about. The story certainly contains lessons that Raphael wants Adam to learn from. One of the morals of the war in Heaven is that disobedience leads to a person’s becoming blind to the truth. Satan and the rebel angels feel empowered by their new decision not to submit, yet their opposition to God actually renders them powerless. Satan and his army never seem to realize the futility of their rebellion. Satan rouses himself and his troops to more and more disobedience, but their continued failure and continued hope of victory demonstrate the blinding effect that their pride and vanity have wrought. Thus blinded, they are easily overcome in battle each day, by only a small portion of God’s angels actually fighting against them. Adam tries to learn the parallel between the battle between good and evil that occurred in Heaven and the battle that will occur subtly on Earth. In similar fashion, we are supposed to envision the parallel of Adam’s struggle in our own lives, as we strive to ward off evil and attain virtue. However, like the rest of the book I am finding myself saying “But wait, Satan has a point.” Is there something wrong with me that I do this? Wasn’t it America’s forefathers who were a lot like Satan in wanting to abandon what they saw as an opressive regime? At what point in time is war justified?
Raphael’s narrative makes the war in Heaven seem unreal, and almost cartoonish. As Raphael explains, angels are exempt from death, which lessens the consequences of the battle and thus makes it seem that less is at stake. Satan, for instance, is grievously wounded by Michael’s sword—he is almost hacked in two—but he is ready to fight the next day. The good angels pick up entire mountains and sling them at the rebel angels. Unable to die or even be seriously wounded, the rebel angels can dig themselves out from under the mountainous rubble, dust themselves off, and plan for their next strike. The entire war comes to seem rather silly because it lacks drama. The outcome is never in doubt.
The style of battle does not resemble the warfare of Milton’s day, but rather the feudal warfare of earlier epics. Milton presents the warring factions each lining up with their spears and shields across a battlefield. The battlefield discussions between the two sides before battle are reminiscent of scenes in Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid. Then, amid classical style warfare, the rebel angels employ what was in Milton’s time a relatively new and dangerous weapon of war: a gunpowder cannon. Milton introduces this discrepancy in modes of warfare to allude to his society’s advancements over those of the classical age. Satan’s invention of the cannon is an unexpected development, signaling Milton’s belief that gunpowder is a demonic invention and that so-called advancements in war are futile and worthless.
Chapter Challenge – Book 7