The Power of Free Will in Milton?s Paradise Lost Essay

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The Power of Free Will in Milton's Paradise Lost

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Remember always that you not only have to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one." To be an individual means to act by choice and make decisions with free will enhanced by the power of knowledge. Only then are people true to themselves and to others. In Paradise Lost, Milton clearly conveys this concept of acting freely under God. He shows the reader that only with the freedom to choose do a person's actions become meaningful and sincere. This idea also helps Milton to explain the importance of "the fall" and God's ultimate plan. Throughout the book, free will is demonstrated not only by Adam and Eve, but also Satan and the other fallen angels,
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Initially, his actions seem motivated by spreading freedom. From this point of view, his role is protagonistic. According to Satan, Hell is run as a democracy, with him as a leader of this "unenvied throne / Yielded with full consent" (Milton, 2.23-24). As Satan states,

In Heav'n, which follows dignity, might draw
Envy from each inferior but whom here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim
Your bulwark, and condemns to greatest share
Of endless pain? (Milton, 2.25-30)

Through statements such as these, Satan makes it appear to the other fallen angels that the leader of Hell is an undesirable position.

Closer examination of Hell and Satan, however, reveals that Hell is not a democracy, it does not represent freedom, and Satan does not have power. To begin with, Satan and the other fallen angels are banned from Heaven and reside in Hell under God's command. While there, they set up a model democracy, which is based upon freedom and choice. Satan claims to have taken leadership by default, as no one else would want to rule. The truth is, however, that this democracy is actually a monarchy in disguise, undetectable because of the other fallen angels' ignorance. They do not see that by misleading the other fallen angels, Satan is able to take control, forcing the angels to follow him. This form of ruling, in comparison with

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