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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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MAMMON

Mammon is the engineer of Pandemonium, the miner who finds the ore for the golden budding. He is "the least erected spirit that fell" (I, 679), because his mind is on money.

OTHER DEVILS

Nisroc has a single speech, urging the rebel angels on the first night of the War in Heaven to do something quickly because he can't stand pain. Mulciber has no speeches. He is the architect of Pandemonium: Many other devils are named as they slowly move from the bunting lake to the shore for the military parade. They are all false gods, those who seduced the Israelites away from God in the Old Testament, or the classical gods of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

THE TRINITY

Christianity is based on a mystic trinity, a three-in-one, one-in-three godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. All three have existed since the beginning of time, but the Son is only revealed at the celebration of the Great Year, and the Holy Spirit does not appear in Paradise Lost at all except in a flash-forward to the time after the Ascension of Christ when the Spirit is sent as a comforter to man. When speaking of Paradise Lost, by "God" we generally mean God the Father, and "the Son" means God the Son.



GOD

Like Satan, God is a problem for readers of Paradise Lost. We like Satan too much and God not enough. People have suggested that in each case their characters are already given: we know God is good and we know Satan is bad, so neither has to be shown in action doing what is expected of him. But the truth remains that we'd rather have Satan's company than God's.

He elevates the Son without preparing the angels for the news, and indeed without any obvious reason, but that's his privilege. The rest of the universe must adapt to him, not he to it.

He loses more than one-third of the angels to Satan. One critic has said a loss of that size would make one question God's management style. And there is a certain teasing quality to his actions: if he could so easily order the fallen angels to be pushed out of Heaven, why did he let the war go on for three days? It seems capricious.

But he has virtues: he is a just and merciful judge. He listens to the Son's prayers for Adam and Eve and does not kill them, even though that was the punishment for eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. He does everything he can to warn Adam and Eve, sending them Gabriel to guard them and Raphael to explain their danger to them. And he is deeply proud of the Son and what he represents, love of man.

THE SON

As a character, the Son has an important function in Paradise Lost as the exact opposite of Satan. He is put into parallel situations to demonstrate right behavior when Satan demonstrates what is wrong. In Book III, when we first meet the Son, he willingly takes on the job of dying for mankind:

Behold me then, me for him, life for life, I offer, on me let thine anger fall; Account me man; I for his sake will leave Thy bosom...

(III, 236-239)

Satan too has willingly taken on a courageous task, but he did it to destroy mankind, to complete his revenge on God. The Son always obeys God immediately, with a grace that shows his perfect freedom. He is the executive branch and God the legislative branch of the heavenly government. He can use the power of God, for example when he rides out in his chariot and pushes the rebel angels out of Heaven, but he doesn't abuse it.

His great characteristic is his special love for man. From the moment that he accepts his position as the future redeemer, he represents man's interests before God. When he judges Adam and Eve after the Fall, he does so as "both judge and savior sent," and immediately after pronouncing judgment he begins to look after them. He gives them clothes made of the skins of beasts and shields them from God's sight.

In the flash-forward in Book XII, we see the culmination of the Son's devotion to man, when he is born, lives, and dies for man. To him God gives the privilege of cleaning out Hell on the day of judgment, when a new Heaven and a new earth are created.

The Son is not blandly acquiescent. He knows that the sacrifice he will make for man is going to be painful beyond belief. He is quite capable of reminding God that the force of man's fall will be felt by him-"worst on me must light." The Son has dignity without coldness and obedience without fawning. It is a great deal easier to like him than God, for his function in the Trinity is to be man's side of God.

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