Analysis of Hell in Paradise Lost ,Book-I by John Milton

Of all the narrative passages in Paradise Lost, Book-I , John Milton’s description of Hell stands out unique by virtue of its graphics pictorial quality and its evocation of a sense of gloomy terror. Though Milton was aware of the Renaissance concept that heaven and hell are no specifics topographical locals, but states of the mind itself, he clings to the medieval concept of Hell of having topographical entity. Milton presents Hell as a place designed for the eternal punishment of the fallen angels. Hell is a place for removed from the celestial seat of bliss. It is situated in the nethermost depth of abyss, and it takes nine days and nights to fall into this dreadful pit from heaven. Hell is an assemblage of all the arbitration human emotions – pains, despair, envy, restlessness, heartlessness, heartburn etc. This scene of barren desolation is thus described by Milton
          “A Dungeon horrible on all rides round,
          Serves only to discover sights of woe ….”
Here is sinister wilderness, ‘a dismal situation waste and wild’. While Satan surveys Hell as far as he can see and observe, He finds it a vast, gloomy and dreary region. It is like a huge underground prison house terrible to behold.
Hell is a burning reign, a place of sultriness, a burning oven, a places where one is trapped and gaoled far ever. From the burning furnace of Hell the constantly flickering flames issue no light. They only provides phantasmagoria of dim visibility. The medieval notion that the flame of Hell give no light is derived by Milton instigates that the damned and the doomed are deprived of the sight of God, who is the form of light. It is a place where fire exists without light and darkness is almost tangible and this darkness itself reveals the sight of misery. Hell is a region of sorrow and misery, helplessness and eternal torment. A look at Hell reveals:
 “Regions of sorrow, doleful shades where peace
 And rest can never dwelt, hopes never comes
That comes to all, but fortune with out end”.
 Hopes being totally absent, there are only never ending torture. And there is no release from here for the fallen angels. It is very unlike the place from whence they fell.

Hell is a lake of ever burning sulfur, a flood of fire, which constantly overwhelms and engulfs the victims imprisoned in this dreadful gloom. Such a place, encapsulated by utter darkness has been designed by God for the fallen angels as a mark of punishment for their foul revolt. The ‘floods and whirlwinds of tempestuous fire’ make it most torrid clime. It is all wrapped up in smoke and foul smell. Like a volcano it blasts vapour and blown off rocks. Here is the burnt surface at the bottom.

The lakes of ever burning fire are, thus, one part of the Hell only. On another half of this terrible dungeon lays an open space, a vast tract of solid ground of ‘burning marl’. Such a place of course, heat and insufferable anguish is Hell where peace and rest are impossible. Peace, rest hope and calm, that which make life enjoyable and worth living, one completely absent in Hell. This is a place of perfect perdition where to exist is to experience the worst death in a deathless world.

Milton's Universe
Milton’s Hell is described partly as the readers might see it and partly through Satan’s eye. The objective and subjective torments of Hell are thus mingled where from we can experience ours’ as well as Satan’s mind.

 Towards the end of the Book-I Milton has another view to show of Hell. On the near side of the burning ground stands a massive structure of architectonic excellence, the capital and place of Satan, Pandemonium, amidst the bowels of precious curse, gold. It is a miracle of architecture. Milton describes how this army of builders prepares many calls from which beauty gilded forth in every form.

 C. S. Lewis observes that Milton’s description of Hell is never concrete, there being no definition of such things as the size of Hell, the exact nature of its tortures or the degree of heat that Satan feels. Renowned critic Prof. Hellen Gardiner has rightly observed – “Its all enclosing dreadfulness typifying dwarfing awareness of remorse, distance from God, pain from which its inhabitants can never escape. Though terrible, it is not formless sea and land exist and from its soil issue forth destruction unavoidable”. One should also remember that Milton’s graphic description of Hell intensifies the tragic intensity and overwhelming effect. Here is the concrete world for the abstract idea. Here is the opposite of Heaven but ‘mind is its own place’ for Satan who is even ready to brave the hell.


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