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

Does Milton attempt to describe the indescribable? To what extent does he succeed?

Extracts from this document...


Does Milton attempt to describe the indescribable? To what extent does he succeed? Milton uses numerous literary devices in his attempt to describe the apparantly undescribable in Paradise Lost. The beginning of Paradise Lost is similar in gravity and seriousness to the book from which Milton takes much of his story: the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. This can be construed by the reader to be almost a statement of intent from Milton, who it appears is likening Paradise Lost to the Holy Bible. He seemingly seeks to elevate himself above other epics as he attempts to 'assert eternal providence, and justify the ways of God to men.' From the very outset, this appears to be a rather fanciful and audacious task, and it is dubious as to whether any mortal is able to justify such a thing. The first two sentences, or twenty-six lines, of Paradise Lost are extremely compressed, containing a great deal of information about Milton's reasons for writing his epic, his subject matter, and his attitudes toward his subject. ...read more.


Then, at greater length, he compares Satan to a Leviathan, or giant sea creature, so huge that sailors mistake it for an island and fix their anchor to it. In other epics, these sorts of similes establish the great size or strength of characters, and on the surface these similes seem to do the same thing. At the same time, however, these similes have an unsettling effect, for they remind us that we really do not know Satan's true size. No one knows how big the mythical Titans were, because they were defeated before the age of man. The image of a Leviathan confuses, too, for the Leviathan's size generates deception and confusion. Whatever Satan's true size, he is never again likened to such enormous objects. He assumes many shapes, and Milton compares him to numerous creatures, but the size of these creatures steadily diminishes, reflecting the steady diminishment of Satan's moral stature. The similes used to describe Satan also make us aware that we do not know the size of anything in Hell-not the burning lake, the hill, Pandemonium, or the fallen angels themselves. ...read more.


Milton refers to numerous exotic and remote places for the reader, such as 'Abarim' and 'Hesebon', and this contributes to the remote and distant picture of hell that he seeks to paint. The poem's realism is that of a myth, and its credibility dependent on the outlines of Christian belief, rather than specific historical details. The entire concern or major theme of Paradise Lost is to refute predestination and justify the freedom of will. However Satan is portrayed as an almost romantic, recognizable character with whom we have shared every twist and turn his thinking takes throughout his physical and mental journey thus far. Satan can easily be perceived as the bold colonist, not lacking the courage of his convictions, be it at the expense of being exiled from the realms of heaven. With the strength of classical precedents, the introduction to Paradise Lost refracts a seemingly incomprehensible description of fantastic proportions, utilising allusive language, epic similies, literary devices such as paradox, emotive language and vivid descriptions to apparantly describe the indescribable, be it the message of god, or the extent of torment in the vaults of hell. ...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. 'Paradise Lost' - "Our Flesh is An Eve Within Us"[1]- The Presentation of Eve ...

    Eve, with a determined, "the willinger I go"26, withdraws from him and continues alone. Perhaps Adam's failure to restrain her forcibly is the root cause of the Fall? Ultimately no one can say, but nevertheless I believe this question to be a valid one, if only owing to the last line of the above quotation.

  2. The Dualistic Genesis of Paradise Lost

    and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious .

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

    savages "most English colonialists on the edge of the civil world lived in fear of becoming." (p.93) this relates to the theme carried out throughout Paradise Lost, where God is continuously warning Adam and Eve not to disobey Him and eat from the forbidden tree.

  2. “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser). ...

    by dint of coincidences or revelations, but simply by Munro's insistence that every life is important". While Munro's ideology is somewhat revealed through her choice of plots and protagonists, the point which seems to pervade her writing is that the ideologies of the characters are the most important and it

  1. By means of what textual strategies does Milton seek to 'justify the ways of ...

    And by justification Milton did not mean a merely logical explanation that would provide an intellectual conclusion and bring God within the framework of our understanding. He uses the word with its New Testament meaning, where it implies a divine, not a human or logical, understanding, a supernatural illumination from

  2. How far do you agree with this judgment on Milton's handling of Satan in ...

    His other names of "apostate angel", traitor angel" and the "Arch-fiend" have great pejorative resonance. They highlight that Satan is not entirely worthy of the reader's pity. Satan's duplicity is apparent in his discourse with his troops, in the debate and with his daughter Sin.

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

    his physical self to the torments of Hell, whilst making 'a Heaven of Hell' with his spiritual being. In his speech to the fallen legion Satan inspires them to share in his hope. His speech is beautifully constructed and he has a majestic, reverential power over his audience.

  2. In 1664 John Milton wrote what is now one of his most famous works, ...

    He accepts the fact that there are both good and bad books, but that people will never be able to find the good unless they also experience the bad: "...what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil?

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