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John Milton, 'paradise Lost Books One And Two', Title 'milton's Is A Highly Visual Representation Of Hell. What Does He Describe? How Does He Describe It? What Purposes Do His Descriptions Serve?'

1937 words - 8 pages

Although it has been suggested that Milton's depiction of Satan is unconventional in that it is sympathetic towards him, the same cannot be said for his portrayal of hell. His descriptions, made up of incomparable metaphors, are striking and forceful, yet the interruptions of Satan's speeches of determination allow the readers to explore how it might feel to actually be in hell. Milton puts emphasis on the negative aspects of change through descriptions of characters, and constant comparisons to heaven and Eden. He has taken on the task of describing the indescribable, and with his use of similes aiding him in the process; he successfully manages to create an elaborate image of hell in our minds.The first descriptions of hell come almost immediately after the invocation, and set up the horrible and superlative image:'The dismal situation waste and wild,A dungeon horrible, on all sides roundAs one great furnace flamed, yet from those flamesNo light, but rather darkness visibleServed only to discover sights of woe' (Book I 60-64)The paradox used in line 63 is particularly powerful, as darkness cannot be seen. His intention here is to provide a graphic and meaningful description of the nature of the darkness in hell, so palpable and terrible as to seem visible. In line 65, Milton adapts Dante's words on the gates of hell,'where peaceAnd rest can never dwell, hope never comesThat comes to all; but torture without end' (Book I 65-67)and, in doing so, creates an interesting contrast. He begins the phrase with the words 'peace' and 'rest', only to end up with 'torture without end'. It is similar to how he puts across an impression of heaven: by describing hell, and suggesting everything that heaven is not. Here, he has begun with softer language, and then shifted to harsh, brutal imagery. The idea of endless torture is far more alarming and unsettling than the image of a place without peace and rest. Another effective technique in these lines is the use of a caesura in line 65. By adding 'torture without end' after a pause, it thickens the idea of an intolerable, inhumane realm. It also makes us realise just how much worse a situation Satan and his legions are, in hell, than before.Milton not only uses visual imagery but also gives an indication of the pungent smell and taste of hell, which we can relate to our own senses:'a fiery deluge, fedWith ever-burning sulphur unconsumed' (Book I 68-69)The parody of this line also suggests that in a place so terrible as hell, things are not as they appear on Earth i.e. hell has its own principles, such that the fires can burn without actually consuming the 'ever-burning sulphur'. This links to the description of hell's gates in Book II where they are 'Yet unconsumed' by the 'circling fire', creating a sense of torture being on-going with no productive effect except for endless suffering and pain. The use of repetition of similar words is applied between lines 74-6 with 'pole', 'fell' and 'fall', which all echo...

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