In John Milton’s Paradise Lost the forces of good vs. evil are major factors throughout the epic. From the beginning of the poem, good vs. evil, or more specifically Heaven vs. Hell and God vs. Satan, become Milton’s focal point and the basis of the story. Milton sets up an opposition between his characters. Satan has accomplices such as Moloch and Belial and God has archangels such as Michael and Raphael. Milton, when talking about the differences between Heaven and Hell, makes the theme of Good vs. Evil evident.
The views of God and his angels contrast with the views of Satan and his devils. It appears that Heaven is a monarchy whereas Hell is a democracy. The story begins with Satan and 1/3 of all the legions of angels being banished from Heaven and into Chaos, or Hell, which is vividly described as “a dungeon horrible, on all sides round as one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames no light but rather darkness visible and a fiery deluge, fed with ever-burning sulphur consumed. (I, 61-69)” Hell is just that, Hell.
God exiled Satan and his new followers to suffer eternal torment in the worst possible place imaginable as punishment for attempting to overthrow God and corrupt Heaven. God is not going to allow the fallen angels to make a home for themselves in Hell because he designed it to be a punishment, a dwelling of never-ending pain. Heaven is the complete opposite of Hell. The major difference between Heaven and Hell is that of light and darkness. Hell is always dark and gloomy, whereas Heaven is perpetually light and radiant.
Book III is full of light, so Milton invokes its aid as God’s first creation. Milton himself went blind later in his forties which way be why he envisioned Heaven as such magnificently bright place. There are many ways to compare and contrast Heaven and Hell besides what was already mentioned. For one, God and the angels of Heaven look down upon the newly created earth in pride and awe. Satan and his fallen angels of Hell look up in resentment and jealousy. Satan opened the gates of Hell after he passed through to symbolize that anybody could enter to suffer with the other inhabitants.
The Gates of Heaven are closed and will stay closed until God’s son is born of man and suffers like man, for us, in order for the gates to be opened so that human souls may join their creator in perpetual light and happiness. Milton stress how both Satan and God have “right-hand men” to do their wills. Satan has the siblings Sin and Death, who guard the gates of Hell, as well as the fallen angels Moloch, Belial, and Mammon to carry out his acts of hatred and sin. God has his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit at his sides to perform God’s loving will.
Besides Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the angels Michael, Raphael, and Uriel carry out his good deeds, which include watching the gates of Heaven as well as watching over God’s new creation, man. The views of Satan and the fallen angels differ completely from the views of God and his angels. In the beginning of Book II, Satan and his followers are bickering amongst themselves over whether or not to mount a comeback against the forces of good. Fallen angels such Moloch advises it proclaiming to open another war, this time “armed with Hell flames”(II, 61).
Others such as Belial dissuade the idea of an attempt to gain control of Heaven. Finally, Satan who here is the voice of reason decides on a third option, to seek out and corrupt this new creation of God’s. Now the natives of Hell have a decision to make, who will take on the task of searching and discovering this new world? Satan himself has to take on the mission due to the fact that cowardice silence fills the air, signifying that not one of his disciples would do it for him. God and the celestial beings in Heaven have different views than the ones of those in Hell.
First off, all is light here as all was darkness in Hell. In Heaven there is a council just as there was in Hell but this council is characterized by harmony and expressions of love. In Hell there was confusion and a difference of opinions among the fallen angels. In Heaven the angels are in perfect balance and understanding with each other. When Satan asked his followers to spy on man for him, not one stepped forward to take responsibility; therefore, Satan had to do it himself.
In Heaven when Almighty God asks for someone to die for him on earth so that the gates of Heaven could be opened again, his own son is the first to step up and take responsibility. Book III is based in pure contrast to Books I and II. Beside the issue of light and dark (Books I and II were totally dark in comparison to Book III which was gleaming with light), these books also differ in the aspect of stench and mood. Heaven is described as full of “ambrosial fragrance (III, 198)” and unlike Satan in Hell, God gives his creation a means of redemption and forgiveness through prayer.
At this point in the book we realize that Heaven is a monarchy where Hell is more of a democracy. God now poses the question to his followers of who is willing to suffer and die a human in order to reopen the gates of Heaven, allowing humans who have atoned for their sins to pass through and join their creator in eternal rest and peace. Immediately God’s only son, Jesus steps forward and volunteers because he would be happy to do anything for his father. There is great rejoicing at this point, with light so radiant that even the angels have to shade their eyes with their wings when they see it (III, 382).
In Heaven there is no debate or over-rulings. Milton clearly presents Heaven as a monarchy due to the fact that God’s word is law and final. God asked a question and immediately his own Son volunteered to do it. In the scene in Hell when Satan asks who will perform a task for him, the fallen angels fall silent, hoping someone else besides himself would answer. In Heaven, every soul would say yes because they love and have faith in God. The angels are aware that as long as they are in God’s hands, no harm can be done to them and they have no worries.
In Hell, Satan brought up the question whether or not the fallen angels should mount a comeback. After many quarrels and different opinions, Satan came to his conclusion. Here Milton displays Satan’s indecisiveness as well as the disorder and mayhem of Hell. This is how Milton presents Hell as a democracy. In conclusion, Milton accomplished exactly what he was trying to when he wrote this epic. This work is an excellent example of not only the contrasts but also the comparisons between Heaven and Hell, their rulers God and Satan, and the ideas each possess.