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Essay on Milton's Use of the Homeric Tradition of Epic Simile in "Paradise Lost"

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Throughout the epic Paradise Lost by John Milton, we see Milton continue the Homeric tradition of epic simile for a number of reasons. Initially Milton may just be using these simile’s to stay true to the decorum of the epic at the time, but the simile’s also do something more for the reader. They show us Milton’s attitude toward Satan, the relationship of heroic to Christian values and more. It is quite interesting that thus far in the epic Milton does not use an epic simile to describe God, which may set the heavens and it’s All powerful king in it’s own terms. It is something absolute not to be described or tampered with. The majority of almost all the simile’s appearing thus far describes Satan, his fellow fallen ones, and Hell. Milton shows the reader the breadth of his knowledge, which is not to be doubted in the first place, through these similes. Milton draws upon all aspects of the world for his similes, he selects from a plethora of classical mythological figures, biblical characters, nature, even history and geography and some contemporary issues of the time. The simile’s are also used to somewhat ground the text, they are not merely present for the aesthetic aspect, relating it to the world of it’s readers; giving the readers a context ensuring them that heaven and hell are always with us, and that this is very relevant to the reader, so Milton had the reader in mind when devising these similes. Through the use of similes describing Satan, we are able to see that all the images likened to Satan are always in a state of constant change, whether it be a hoard of insects or a moving ship, there is always an impression of motion and change. Satan is in a constant state of fluctuation in comparison to the steadfast and omni...


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...t leaves readers in awe of the unearthly scenes described. But also we see the way that the similes have been intertwined into the epic, and the extra meaning added. The similes may seem to be highlighting the devils greatness when in fact it is diminishing the Devil in comparison to God, showing that everything the Devil has done, everything the devil is, Satan’s very existence, is only because God allows it, and that the glory should only go to the deserving creator and omnipotent Lord God. Lastly, it is ironic that Milton is using the epic simile to describe the antagonist of the story, although now he seems like the hero, we know he is the ultimate evil. Intriguing that epic values are ascribed to the one that is evil, which may signify that there is a new standard coming, the Christian virtues are what we should strive for, not the traditional epic values.



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