Rereading the Expulsion

March 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Satan’s accountI169: But see the angry victor hath recalled170: His ministers of vengeance and pursuit171: Back to the gates of heaven: the sulphurous hail172: Shot after us in storm, o’erblown hath laid173: The fiery surge, that from the precipice174: Of heaven received us falling, and the thunder,175: Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,176: Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now177: To bellow through the vast and boundless deep.Chaos’ accountII992: Made head against heaven’s king, though overthrown.993: I saw and heard, for such a numerous host994: Fled not in silence through the frighted deep995: With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,996: Confusion worse confounded; and heaven gates997: Poured out by millions her victorious bands998: Pursuing. I upon my frontiers here999: Keep residence; if all I can will serve,1000: That little which is left so to defend1001: Encroached on still through our intestine broils1002: Weakening the sceptre of old Night: first hell1003: Your dungeon stretching far and wide beneath;1004: Now lately heaven and earth, another world1005: Hung o’er my realm, linked in a golden chain1006: To that side heaven from whence your legions fell:narrator’s accountIII390: He heaven of heavens and all the powers therein391: By thee created, and by thee threw down392: The aspiring dominations: thou that day393: Thy Fathers dreadful thunder didst not spare,394: Nor stop thy flaming chariot wheels, that shook395: Heaven’s everlasting frame, while o’er the necks396: Thou drov’st of warring angels disarrayed.397: Back from pursuit thy powers with loud acclaim398: Thee only extolled, Son of thy Fathers might,399: To execute fierce vengeance on his foes,Raphael’s accountVI856: The overthrown he raised, and as a herd857: Of goats or timorous flock together thronged858: Drove them before him thunderstruck, pursued859: With terrors and with furies to the bounds860: And crystal wall of heav’n, which op’ning wide,861: Rolled inward, and a spacious gap disclosed862: Into the wastful deep; the monstrous sight863: Strook them with horror backward, but far worse864: Urged them behind; headlong themselves they threw865: Down from the verge of heav’n, eternal wrath866: Burnt after them to the bottomless pit.867: Hell heard the unsufferable noise, hell saw868: Heav’n ruining from heav’n and would have fled869: Affrighted; but strict fate had cast too deep870: Her dark foundations, and too fast had bound.871: Nine days they fell; confounded Chaos roared,872: And felt tenfold confusion in their fall873: Through his wild anarchy, so huge a rout874: Encumbered him with ruin: hell at last875: Yawning received them whole, and on them closed,876: Hell their fit habitation fraught with fire877: Unquenchable, the house of woe and pain.878: Disburdened heaven rejoiced, and soon repaired879: Her mural breach, returning whence it rolled.880: Sole Victor from the expulsion of his foesThere are four versions of the expulsion of the rebel angels in Paradise Lost. Satan and Chaos, both fallen sources, tell the first two versions while the narrator and Raphael, both transcendent sources, relate the latter two versions. By revising the first two versions in light of the latter two, we uncover revealing discrepancies between the narratives of the opposing pairs of narrators. These discrepancies force us to confront the problem of memory. Satan and Chaos repress, displace, and omit memories of the traumatic expulsion because they cannot face the guilt and shame from their defeat. Through these psychological defense mechanisms, they refuse to acknowledge their metaphysical role in the universe as tragic characters that are fated to fall. While the reader initially shares the fallen characters’ misperceptions, the narrator and Raphael correct Satan and Chaos’ errors and lead the reader to redemption. The reader can then discern the hidden object behind Satan and Chaos’ repression and anxieties; a Miltonic counterplot of creation, which Geoffrey Hartman characterizes as, “a second plot, simultaneously expressed with the first.” This counterplot is a “hidden presence” that overarches the story by placing the destruction of Satan within the larger, divine design of creation. By rejecting the fallen characters’ skewed perspectives, the reader discovers that the expulsion is a story, not simply about destruction, but ultimately about creation.In Satan’s version of the rebel angels’ fall, the expulsion seems to have cost God a great deal of effort. Satan remembers an enormous host of pursuing angels, whom he likens to “sulphurous hail” (i:171). This belittling and derisive image augments the account’s pervasive stormweather imagery since “sulphurous hail” can mean “thundery hail.” The image of sulfur also refers to the sulfur of hell and the remaining sulfur from a discharge of gunpowder. Satan reuses the image of a fired projectile in line 176, when he speculates that God had “spent his shafts.” “Shafts,” again in conformity with stormweather imagery, means “streaks of lightning” (OED), as well as, “that which is created, a creature” (OED). Thus, God uses up his created angels; he consumes them. The presumption that he “spent his shafts” is a bold challenge to the idea of God’s omnipotence. Satan implies that God, being limited in power, abated his onslaught only because he himself was “spent” or that he spent up his supply of angels.Satan indicates that God’s passionate exertion of effort is fueled by ardent, irrational anger. His description of God’s “impetuous rage” and “bellow[ing]” characterizes God as a rash, violent, and immature child. To describe the defeat, Satan says that God had “o’erblown” the rebel angels. Besides further enhancing the stormweather imagery, the word, “o’erblown,” also suggests that God blew too much, that God lost control of his sudden, fickle temper and used excessive force. Furthermore, “o’erblown” is a distortion of “overthrown,” the word used by subsequent narrators to recount the expulsion. Satan’s perverting rhetoric impedes our search for the truth. So far, we accept Satan’s story as it is and end up falling with him. The poem still has not revealed that the being actually responsible for Satan’s outrageous defeat is the Son of God, a character that Satan excludes. Thus, we are yet to notice Satan’s forced forgetting, his tendency to omit and repress traumatic memories.In the next version of the expulsion, Chaos recounts the indignity and pitiful extent of Satan’s defeat. In line 994, Chaos tells Satan that he and his followers “Fled not in silence,” thereby understating the flustered condition of the rebel angels to a comical degree. In the next two lines, Chaos describes the flight as “ruin upon ruin, rout on rout / Confusion worse confounded.” While remarking that the rebel angels were “confounded,” Chaos rhetorically compounds his description of their plight by the repetition of “ruin” and “rout,” and by the repetition in meaning of “confusion” with its synonym, “confounded.” In lines 998-999, Chaos says that heaven “Poured out by millions her victorious bands / Pursuing.” By use of enjambment, “victorious bands,” the object of the previous clause, becomes the pursuers, the subject of the second clause. One clause pursues another, producing the effect of relentless, unending defeat. While Chaos paints a dramatic and compounded description of Satan’s fall, he himself, in the meantime, comes across as an irked but composed spectator. Later, when Raphael says that Chaos, like Satan, was confounded and ruined by the expulsion, we realize that Chaos was displacing his humiliation by fixating on Satan’s disgraceful defeat.The narrator, presumably Milton, is the first reliable speaker to tell the story of the expulsion. He contradicts Satan’s claim, which was corroborated by Chaos, that multitudes of loyal angels aided in the pursuit of Satan and his followers. The narrator indicates that the Son expelled the rebel angels by himself, without any additional help. Addressing the Son, he says that “Back from pursuit thy powers with loud acclaim / Thee only extolled” (iii:397-398), as if the angels were idly waiting in heaven to congratulate the Son on his solitary victory. Thus, we discover that Satan’s memory of numerous pursuers is bogus. Because defeat by countless legions is far more palatable than defeat at the hands of one individual, Satan’s psychological defense mechanisms constructed a fantasy to mitigate the crushing indignity of his downfall.In consideration of the narrator’s tone during his account, we must reevaluate Satan’s portrayal of God. Compared to the raging, torrid God of Satan’s account, the narrator’s Son of God defeats Satan and his followers with ease and composure. The Son exerts a pointedly passive force; he “didst not spare” (iii:393) his powers, “nor stop [his] flaming chariot wheels” (iii:394). The narrator focuses on what the Son did not do- he simply did not withhold his overflowing might. The God that seems deliriously angry to Satan is splendidly unperturbed to the narrator. As readers, we begin our transition away from Satan and Chaos’ limited perspectives to a divine viewpoint.The Son wields power so effortlessly because he can destroy as easily as he creates: “all the powers therein / By thee created, and by thee threw down” (iii:390-391). In another part of the poem, Satan claims that he was “self-begot” (v:857), thereby usurping the role of the Son as creator. In yet another part, Satan claims that his forces “shook [God’s] throne” (i:105), in contradiction to the narrator’s account, which says that the Son “shook / Heaven’s everlasting frame” (iii:394-395). Again, Satan overtakes the role of the Son by assuming that he was the power that induced the throne’s shaking. Satan’s misattribution of the Son’s power to himself is another defense mechanism. His unconscious reconfigures his memory to sustain the desperate belief that his actions and existence, rather than being a subdued part of God’s will, actually bears a self-determined consequence upon God’s plans. Satan refuses to remember the experience of paralyzed impotence in the face of the Son’s absolute omnipotence.Thus, the narrator’s discourse is a return of the repressed. It begins to unravel the veil of dignity that Satan constructed for himself in his account of the expulsion. The narrator calls the rebel angels, “warring angels disarrayed,” which indicates not only that the rebel angels were thrown into confusion, but that they were “stripped of their array” of confident self-assurance. The narrator helps the reader pare away the false array and see things as they really are.Raphael, the fourth speaker to retell the story of the expulsion, completes the revision of Satan’s original account. Like the narrator, Raphael says that the Son carried out the pursuit alone. While describing the war in heaven, Raphael says Moloch was “bellowing” (vi:362), whereas Satan had suggested that God was “bellow[ing]” (i:177) in rage. Again, we learn that Satan misattributed an action, this one characterizing a shameful loss of self-control. Through an inversion of attribution, Raphael overturns the earlier account as part of his implicit mission to correct Satan and Chaos’ errors.Raphael’s most powerful revision concerns the rebel angels’ actual fall from heaven. In Satan’s account, it seems as if God’s storm of angels blew Satan and his followers off “from the precipice / Of heaven” (i:173-174). While “precipice” obviously means “steep cliff,” its more interesting definition is “headlong fall or descent to a great depth” (OED). And indeed, Raphael confirms and elucidates Satan’s unconscious slip: “headlong themselves they threw / Down from the verge of heav’n… to the bottomless pit” (vi:864-866). The astounding revelation of these lines is centered on the alliterative phrase, “themselves they threw.” Once again, Satan is guilty of misattribution, this time denying personal responsibility for what is finally a self-inflicted fall by claiming that God’s angels threw him down. Paradoxically, Satan was all-too-correct in his earlier proclamation that “the mind… in itself / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” (i:254-255), that heaven and hell can be reduced to psychological states. Yet, Satan cannot admit that hell was already within himself, that his already-crushed spirit is precisely what led him to fling himself from the precipice. Indeed, though Satan’s account of the expulsion in Book I displays a countenance of confident defiance, sublimated traces of shame reside within his speech.Moreover, Raphael’s powerful account radically revises Chaos’ earlier version of the expulsion. Lines 867-868 of Raphael’s account, “Hell heard… hell saw / Heav’n ruining from heav’n,” recall the instance in which Chaos thought that he “saw and heard” (ii:993) Satan’s angels pursued by bands of loyal angels. Raphael’s expression, “Heav’n ruining from heav’n,” means, “the rebel angels falling from heaven.” In his narrative, Chaos fails to distinguish between the “heav’n” referring to the band of rebel angels and the “heav’n” referring to the band of faithful angels. Thus, he misreads the chaotic tumult of the rebel angels’ fall by assuming the presence of two parties, the pursued rebels and the pursuing angels. In fact, Raphael’s account shows that the pursued and the pursuer are one and the same. This rereading reinforces the idea that the hell of Satan’s angels is within themselves, that they threw themselves over the precipice, fleeing from each other in confusion, compounding ruin upon ruin.Lines 871-874 of Raphael’s account answers the question of why Chaos made such an inaccurate observation regarding Satan’s pursuers:Nine days they fell; confounded Chaos roaredAnd felt tenfold confusion in their fallThrough his wild anarchy, so huge a routEncumbered him with ruin…Chaos’ sensations and memories of the event were exaggerated; the angels fell nine days but Chaos felt tenfold confusion. His overblown account does not relate the events as they actually happened, but rather it discloses the events as a disoriented Chaos felt them to have happened. Raphael repeats three important words from Chaos’ account: “confounded,” “rout,” and “ruin.” Whereas Chaos applied these negative adjectives to Satan and his angels, Raphael applies these adjectives to Chaos. Chaos is not the composed bystander that he made himself out to be. Instead, he simply displaced his own humiliating sensations onto the rebel angels. By fixating on Satan’s utter devastation, Chaos hoped to forget his own. Thus, the “bellow[ing] through the vast and boundless deep” that Satan heard and attributed to God (i:177) may actually have been Chaos’ “roar[s]” (vi:871), thus conveying his harrowing psychological experience.To Satan and Chaos, the expulsion was turbulent. To God, the expulsion was effortless and ordered. Raphael describes the rebel angels “as a herd / Of goats or timorous flock together thronged” (vi:857-858). In this image, the tamed and belittled rebel angels operate as an indistinguishable mass. By the alliterative phrase, “together thronged,” we behold the rebel angels packed closely together, a contained microcosm of chaos and disorder organized within a larger divine layout of natural harmony. Raphael gives us a wider, more complete picture in which to situate the fall of the rebel angels. In contrast to the stormweather imagery of Satan’s account, Raphael offers us a calm pastoral in which the Son, with ease, directs and controls a confused but easily-managed flock. From Satan’s point of view, however, sheer chaos characterized the expulsion; God simply lost control and threw the universe into a disordered tumult. Indeed, Satan’s inability to confront divine power and its ability to contain evil points to his limited perspective.By placing the expulsion within the sense of a larger, divine design, Raphael presents a Miltonic counterplot. This counterplot, present throughout the different tellings of the expulsion, is consonant with the plan of divine creation. Chaos says “another world / Hung o’er my realm, linked in a golden chain / To that side heaven from whence your legions fell” (ii:1006-1006). God leaves a new creation in the wake of the rebel angels’ destruction. The new “chain” speaks silently of order and connection, forming the counterplot embedded in Chaos’ story. In the narrator’s account, the Son rides his chariot to destroy Satan and his followers. The Son later uses this same chariot to create man. The narrator’s statement about the rebel angels, “By thee created, and by thee threw down” (iii:390-391) also indicates a synergy between creation and destruction.This binary opposition between creation and destruction, like the binary opposition between good and evil, is a primary theme throughout Paradise Lost. Each word derives its meaning by relation or opposition to its complement, and this contrast creates meaning. For this reason, differentiation, distinguishing, discrimination, and digestion are important to Paradise Lost because they are a necessary part of the act of creation. Each of those words begins with the prefix “di,” which means “two.” Creation is about the refinement of some undifferentiated substance into two opposing binaries. Thus, we must view Satan’s destruction as a necessary complement to God’s plan of creation. We begin to discern the fundamental causes of the anxiety and repression in Satan’s discourse. He is too hopelessly self-centered to see beyond the surrounding destruction, and he cannot psychologically allow himself to accept his ignominious fate within God’s grand design.Just as he corrects Adam’s interpretations of the history of mankind, Raphael corrects the reader’s conception of the expulsion. We transcend Satan and Chaos’ linearity and begin to view the expulsion as a cyclical, dialectic process of creation. In particular, we become aware of the natural process of digestion, a prominent image throughout the versions of the expulsion, and its importance in the process of creation. Chaos says that “intestine broiles,” which means “civil wars,” are encroaching on his territory. “Intestine” implies digestion, differentiation of the entropy in Chaos’ realm. The expulsion of the rebel angels is a digestive expulsion. According to Raphael, they fall into the “wasteful” (vi:862) deep, and heaven is “disburdened” (vi:878). Hell, “Yawning received them,” presumably through the mouth, thereby ingesting them. We see why Satan cannot psychologically allow himself to accept his metaphysical role in the universe; it is because he is one of the “black tartareous cold infernal dregs” expelled during the process of creation (vii:238).The passing of the rebel angels from one ethereal orifice to another proceeds with natural ease. To expel them, heaven “Rolled inward” (vi:861), and afterwards, “soon repaired / Her mural breach, returning whence it rolled” (vi: 878-879). The spondaic “Rolled inward” is slow and smooth, as is the trochaic “Yawning” of hell. “Yawning” is, like digestion, an involuntary biological process. Because heaven and hell stir involuntarily, Raphael describes their action in passive, acquiescent terms; heaven rolls inward to “disclose” the wasteful deep while hell “receives” the rebel angels. The soft, steady peacefulness and purposed prescience of God’s design replaces the formerly dominant themes of anger and exertion.Thus, we learn that the story of the expulsion is not simply a sequence of destruction and cleansing, but that it is simultaneously a story of creation. To Satan and Chaos, the story is entirely about devastation, shame, and trauma. Their accounts are more about their own pathos than the actual historicity of the fall from heaven. Unable to confront the tragic futility of his metaphysical role, Satan forgets the Son and falsely remembers that God was bellowing instead of Moloch, that God threw the rebel angels into hell even though they threw themselves, and that he was driven out by multitudes of angels even though the Son was the only pursuer. Chaos, in a similar manner, displaces his humiliation onto Satan. Whereas Satan fixates on God’s irrational rage and Chaos fixates on Satan’s disgraceful defeat, the narrator and Raphael focus on the power, ease, and naturalness of the Son. Satan’s stormweather imagery in the first account gives way to Raphael’s pastoral imagery in the last account. Through the corrective agency of the narrator and Raphael, the reader sees past the errors within Satan and Chaos’ accounts. By getting over Satan and Chaos’ repression and fixations, we are finally able to situate the devastation of the rebel angels within the implicit counterplot of divine creation. We digest the four accounts of the expulsion through a cyclical process of reading and rereading, discharging Satan’s skewed narrative while incorporating a divine perspective over this story.Raphael’s description of the rebel angels as “goats” recalls the Biblical verse, Matthew 25:32: “He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (KJV, emphasis added). His description of “Heav’n ruining from heav’n” also illustrates a differention or separating of heaven.

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