‘Flawed characters are always more memorable than any moral lessons that literature seeks to draw from them.'
Discuss ways in which writers present characters' flaws and failings.
In ‘Paradise Lost,' Satan is arguably the most flawed character, shown through his attempt to defy God's powers and excessive Pride or Hubris , where he uses his guile and malice throughout book 9 to appeal to human life , taking animal form and manipulating his words in order to persuade Eve to eat from God's forbidden tree. Satan's primary objective is to focus on the destruction of man and this is arguably a flaw in his character in book 9, however some critics could argue that man's disobedience and the misuse of reason by Adam and Eve is also a tragic flaw in the text.
Milton first hints at a flawed character in the first part of Book 9, using Satan's soliloquy to emphasise his hostility in relation to mankind as he exclaims it is ‘only in destroying I find ease To my relentless thoughts. ' Milton's alternative syntax and choice to place the couplet ‘relentless thoughts' at the end of the line stresses the fact that Satan cannot focus on anything else but the destruction of mankind - almost as if his ‘flaw' (meaning his evil thoughts) is his only way to feel pleasure and hapiness within himself . Satan's own acknowledgment of his dark inner desires highlights his inner corruption and tragic flaw. Milton also highlights Satan's envious qualities through the use of the conditional tense, as Satan analyses what he ‘could joy in aught,' and ‘could have walkt thee round' when referring to earth. Satan's expression of jealousy and envy towards God' s creation links to his tragic flaw as he wants back what he lost when he was banished to hell. I t could be argued that envy and malice are source s o f his inner corruption throughout book 9.
Satan also lies in the opening of Paradise Lost, as he explains how he in ‘one night freed' ‘half th'angelic name,' which is untrue and again highlights his flaws. Milton perhaps uses the flawed character of Satan to foreshadow future events and remind the reader that Satan may use his untruthful self in order to control and employ evil within man. Milton also hints at possible deception as Satan takes on the form of a serpent ‘whose mazy folds' will deceive Eve and allow him to destroy mankind. The word ‘mazy' brings connotations of a maze and alludes to Satan's confused and mysterious nature, perhaps hinting at his ability to inveigle mankind early in the narrative. Satan's ability to deceive and manipulate is one of his most common qualities and perhaps the underlying cause of Satan' s flawed character in Paradise Lost.
Satan shows excessive pride throughout Paradise Lost as he exclaims in Bo ok 9: ‘Eve look on me! Me who have touched and tasted yet both live and life more perfect have attained than fate.' Satan deceives Eve in claiming that she can have a "more perfect" life, a paradoxical statement which demonstrates the dangers associated with extreme pride and self-confidence. Milton's use of exclamation coupled with the imperative ‘look' also lends a boastful tone, showing not only Satan's deep self-admiration , but his ability to control and deceive Eve through his words. Some literary critics argue that Eve contains within her some traits which are similar to Satan as she demands more knowledge and status, described to her by Satan: ‘you will be as Gods.'
Milton presents Adam and Eve as flawed couples, as both comply with evil and eat form the forbidden tree. Adam, in some ways, resembles the Greek hero Aeneas as he is the future father of a new race (humans). However, unlike Aeneas, Adam is flawed an d his first act is disobedient and unheroic as he eats from the forbidden tree which he was instructed not to do by God. By Milton presenting this contrast between Adam as a hero and as a flawed character , some critics argue that Milton is redefining heroism. On the other hand, some say that Adam is of divine birth and was created by