Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Paradise Lost Reaction

You are killing me with the 400 word count, Ms. Howard. I feel so clipped. I ended at 449 words. I hope this transgression may be forgiven.            

Years of repeated religious doctrine have forged a very strict image of Satan, one which is difficult to dislodge from the mind. Throughout my childhood, the fallen angel was labeled as a beast, the very guide by which not to act. Satan has been forever molded as the source of humanity’s downfall, the serpent that tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. Wickedness and evil are his playthings. Yet Milton, according to modern literary circles, accidentally created Lucifer as a tragic and sympathetic character within Paradise Lost, a being whose values and personality are aligned to the societal standards of the twenty-first century.
            In many ways, Milton’s Satan may be interpreted as a modern-day anti-hero. His plight is one of individualism, free-will, and a desire to seize something greater than one’s self. Satan raises an army of loyal angels, who oppose the reign of God, in rebellion against the established Kingdom of Heaven. The very situation is one that sends off an alarm for individuals with Christian upbringings. To believe that Satan, of all beings, could garner any amount of sympathy or lamentation is ridiculous and sacrilegious. Within a moral society, God is good and Lucifer is bad. However, for true literary students and enthusiasts, suspending the rigid binary opposition of Heaven and Hell and Good and Evil presents a rather intriguing and challenging study of Milton and his Satan.
            Several of Satan’s speeches within Paradise Lost carry a hefty weight. Milton wrote him in such a way that his actions and their consequences ensnare and captivate the reader rather than immediately repulse. Satan laments his exile from Heaven’s “happy fields/Where joy forever dwells”, yet he does not surrender himself to his situation. Instead, the fallen angel proclaims aloud that “The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Satan tries overthrowing a ruler who he truly believed to be falsely placed (and when have humans never strained under the yoke of an administrator, boss, or leader?), yet he himself is displaced and punished for his attempts. Downcast yet not downtrodden, Satan affirms his legions that in Hell “We shall be free”.
            Such a character as Milton’s Satan has become fairly familiar in modern literature. The anti-hero, or the tragic figure who is misunderstood for doing what he believes in, are regularly dealt with. In addition, Milton’s Satan coincides strongly with a modern emphasis on individuals, freedom, and defense of ideals. Certainly, at the end of the day Satan is still the Satan of evil acts and corruption. But in Milton’s writing one can find halting verses and haunting passages that question an individual’s sense of right, wrong, and just action.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Tempest: Caliban Intro

I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me,
Wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved
And show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The Fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and
Cursed be I that did so! All the charms
Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you!
For I am all the subjects that you have,
Which first was mine own king: and here you
sty me
In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me
The rest o’ the island

Paraphrase: Let me eat. My mother Sycorax owned this island, and I thus inherited it. You have stolen it from me. When you arrived, you behaved like a friend, treated me well, and taught me to understand the sky. I loved you, and showed you every inch of this island, all its secrets. It was a mistake! I am your only servant now, you who was my first king. If only the spells of Sycorax, of toads, beetles, and bats could plague you! Now you keep me stored in confinement, and keep my rightful island from me.

Analysis: This passage gives an introduction to the character of Caliban within The Tempest. It is a first glance at Caliban’s history, personality, and motives. As is described within the passage, Prospero assumed control of the island when he landed upon it. However, Caliban had already been present on the island as an offspring of the witch Sycorax. Caliban, under his conditions, believed himself to be rightful heir and ruler of the land. Thus when Prospero began to exercise his own authority, Caliban grew enraged and offended at having lost his property and gained a sort of subjugation.
            Caliban believes that he was deceived by Prospero, who had lured Caliban into a false sense of security with kindness, friendship, and a fatherly education. When Prospero treated the island as his own, Caliban viewed all their previous interactions together as false and foolish, and became indignant to Prospero’s presence. At this point it can be inferred that Prospero had to treat Caliban more sternly, almost to a point of servitude, so as to maintain peace and stability and avoid violent conflict. Part of this may be derived from Prospero’s desire to protect his daughter, Miranda.
            The treatment as a servant is another blow to Caliban’s pride. Beyond being stolen from, he is now a subject. It is difficult to discern who is truly right and just in the matter. A sort of pity may be felt towards Caliban, whose plight of loss and subjugation is not without merit. Of course, the situation may be skewed in his eyes. Prospero might have treated the island as under no single rule, but with a shared inhabitance, until Caliban blew the situation into conflict that could have been avoided. The introduction definitely serves to display the strenuous relationship between the two characters, and could foreshadow future events or clashing between them.