The Creation of Our Own Hell
John Milton the pious man had to have had a torturous time writing Satan. I cannot ignore that he has done a fantastic job with him. He’s far more relatable than either God or Adam and for that the poem exceeds my expectations. When you read the Bible and most other biblical texts, you know good is good and evil is bad. It is clearly defined. However, in Paradise Lost, Milton has presented a Satan that we can clearly see his cool logic in the beginning. Now we are beginning to see the shift in Satan. From wounded fallen angel of cool logic to the monster we’ve come to associate him with.
Satan’s return to the story presents him as a changed and further degenerated character. Before the temptation of Eve, we see Satan go through another bit of soul-searching. This time, however, he does not waver in his determination to ruin humankind, but only makes a cold expression of regret for things that might have been. Milton notes that Satan is driven to action by the grief and turmoil he feels inside and by his wounded sense of pride. It is clear now that Satan’s decision to corrupt humankind is final, yet he still thinks about how he would have enjoyed the beauty of Earth if he had not rebelled. Milton displays the internal agony that results from the sin of despair: Satan can clearly see, despite all his previous arguments, that it would have been better to remain good. However, he has forbidden himself from even considering the possibility of repentance. As a result, he degenerates further and further, making his mind and body his own personal Hell.
Milton has given absolute power to the reason and free will of both men and Satan, only to show that the mind can defeat itself—using reason to arrive at an unreasonable position. Satan’s thoughts are increasingly contradictory and confusing, becoming hard for us, and perhaps for himself, to follow. Satan comes to believe his own faulty logic and his own lies. In Books I and II, his ability to reason is strong, but now in Book IX he can hardly form a coherent argument. Ironically, Satan has proved the truth of his own earlier statement that the mind can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven. Satan intended to make a heaven out of Hell, where he would be an evil version of God. Instead, he has brought his torture with him, and made a hell out of the earth that, but for him, would be heavenly.
Maybe that is Milton’s point all along. Maybe that is what he wanted us to realize. More than the downfall of man, more than the morality of Adam and Eve, maybe he wanted us to see a reflection of Satan in ourselves and realize that sometimes we can talk ourselves into immoral decisions. Maybe he wanted us to see our own hell that we’ve created.