• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

By means of what textual strategies does Milton seek to 'justify the ways of God to man' in Paradise Lost

Extracts from this document...


By means of what textual strategies does Milton seek to 'justify the ways of God to man' in Paradise Lost? In this essay I will set out to show how Milton sets out to 'justify the ways of God to men' and the ways in which Milton strives to do this. I will firstly explain the political background in which Milton found himself writing in. I will closely analyse the opening Invocation of Book I, explaining how this sets out the rest of the poem, and vice versa. I will also look closely at the character of God, and what Milton means by 'God' and 'justify, before offering a conclusion to summarise any points. Milton's great objective in writing Paradise Lost was to conduct a 'great argument' in order to 'assert eternal providence, /And justify the ways of God to men' (1. 24-26) 1. What the poet is claiming as his task is to demonstrate the ultimate justice of God, and thus to prove the existence of divine providence - that is, to prove the world is not ruled by blind chance, but that events have meaning or purpose. The poem is not a religious one in that it does not inspire religious devotion; it just has religious concerns. Therefore Milton's intention to 'assert' and 'justify' seem almost out of place here, more fitting in a legal or political pamphlet. ...read more.


The two sentences move from human to divine and achieve a literary effect similar to the shift from terrestrial to celestial realms encountered between the octaves and sestets of many sonneteers at the time, including Milton's own. We are introduced to one of the main themes in the poem on the opening line. 'Man' and the unity of the human race whose sin, woe, and hope for restoration are epitomised in Adam and Eve. Man is mentioned a further two times in that passage: 'one greater man' (line 4), and 'justify the ways of God to men' (line 26). In this case Milton is calling attention to the first two Adam's and then to the human race in general. This first disobedience is therefore not only the first in time; it is the source of all other disobedience. All Milton says about the theme of disobedience thus far is summed up in the one word, 'fruit', which is given to mean the edible fruit itself and fruit in the biblical sense, i.e. the 'fruits' of our labours are the product of our actions. Milton ties the two themes of 'Disobedience' and Divine Providence together here, and implies that it was not the momentary lapse of an unreasonable command but a violation of that divine order which God drew from the 'vast Abyss' which caused the Fall of Man. ...read more.


The final justification of God's ways is the manifestation of his grace in the redemption of man through the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ. On some levels this act of 'Providence' can be seen to balance out the 'disobedience' committed by Adam in Eden. In this act of atonement, Christ freed man from the inherited guilt of Adam's sin and made him more aware of God's infinite love than he had been before. So in the poem God's providence is seen just by the conclusion of the 'great argument' (1. Line 24): Satan fell because he merited more than he thought he got, and Adam in his redemption got more than he merited. However, the future that God has provided for Adam and Eve, whilst a glorious one, can never match the still greater future that they and their offspring might have enjoyed in a world without sin. To conclude, I would say that Milton 'justify[s] the ways of God to men', through the assertion of 'Eternal Providence', as he states in his Invocation that he will. The way Milton demonstrates the providence and forgiveness of God in the fall of man justifies his actions. Without the disobedience of Adam and Eve we would never have known the grace and mercy of God taking on the human form in Christ. No fall would have meant no Christ, and this seems the ultimate justification of 'the ways of God to men'. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Milton section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Milton essays

  1. Is Milton's Satan rightly regarded as a tragic hero?

    From his initial awakening in Hell Satan plans to gain revenge over God for his condemnation. Although theoretically impossible in a perfect being, the illusion of his own power and capabilities that he creates seems to cloud the vision of the plausibility of his objective.

  2. Contrasts and Unity in Lycidas

    Milton fears that his voluntary celibacy which he has endured that he might perfect the poetic craft has been futile:--'Alas what boots it with uncessant care/ ...to scorn delights'. His limited time on earth might have been better spent in 'To sport with Amaryllis in the shade' rather than seeking 'fame' which 'is no plant that grows on mortal soil'.

  1. Kubla Khan and its Relation to Romanticism

    The Hesperides' are a type of nymph whom tend to a beautiful garden, or paradise, of unknown location. Alpheus took the nymph to Sicily, where Artemis, the god of childbirth and chastity, turned Arethusa into a fountain, so that the two could make love by mingling their waters.

  2. John Milton's "Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce" argued that the most valid reason for ...

    oneness with God and live in peace and harmony as God originally intended that a man and wife should. For Milton marriage seems to be a reflection of one's relationship with God and therefore to remain in a marriage where there was no real love, understanding and companionship was not

  1. In order to be able to discover the relevance Milton and Paradise Lost still ...

    Milton, according to Achinstein (1999) "supported the colonisation of Ireland as he deemed the Irish as irredeemably barbaric, therefore undeserving of human rights." (p.70). The Irish Catholics are still fighting with the English over a protestant colonisation which occurred centuries ago.

  2. A Study of Traherne's Metaphysical Poetry

    The lines are characterized by an atmosphere of effervescent excitement. The objects he sees around him are less important than the vision with which he sees them. These visions do not have a merely passive role, they communicate with the child: `And everything that I did see / Did with me talk'.

  1. Fate and freedom in Marvell and Milton.

    Eve is reassured that her Fall is in one sense blessed because it paves the way for the later arrival of the Son and the potential to reverse the direction of her transgression into a state higher than that from which she fell: 'By mee the Promis'd Seed shall all restore' (XII.623).

  2. There are many indications within the poetry of Tony Harrison that he considers his ...

    SHIT"5, Harrison tries to protect himself from derision. Critics relate the closing stanzas of "Elegy on a Country Churchyard" to Gray's fears about his poetic destiny. Damien Grant states "The poet writes conscious of his own possible doom, to be 'preserved beneath deep permaverse' like any other victim of evolution"6, but he is considering Harrison's 'epitaph'.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work