Friday, February 22, 2019

Bruce L. Edwards on Satan in J.B. and Paradise Lost

The C. S. Lewis scholar Bruce L. Edwards tells us that MacLeish's Satan in J.B. is similar to Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost:
In the climax of J.B., it is Satan — as he arguably does in John Milton's Paradise Lost — who seems to emerge as the more sympathetic and compassionate character. The implication is that as soon as men and women discover this — as J.B. and Sarah do at the play's end — they no longer need God; they have the opportunity to grapple with human suffering without slogans and empty religious dogma.
Perhaps Edwards has a point, but only if Satan seems sympathetic to us in our human predicament, not that he really is sympathetic. He starts off as a sympathetic figure in Paradise Lost but quickly falls in our estimation of him. Does he have this trajectory in J.B.?

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At 6:35 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Sympathetic? Really?

Anyway, I am at a loss to understand the claim that Milton's Satan is in any way, shape, or form sympathetic or heroic. Where is the textual evidence? Where is the contextual evidence? Everything about Satan is repulsive, false, angry, enraged, vengeful, stupid, violent, delusional, insipid, deceptive... The inability to see these deplorable characteristics reflects an inability to understand even the mere commonplaces of poetry, myth, anthropology, history, theology, philosophy, and even grammar.

It could be that people with weaknesses of character comparing with the arch-fiend are susceptible, but I'm rather inclined to call their lack of moral sensitivity a condition: "Insipid Hippie Syndrome."

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I regret to admit that I was one of those whom Stanley Fish described as misled by Satan in the opening passages of Paradise Lost. In those passages, Satan had not yet lost all his former glory, and he was still capable of weeping angel's tears. His further decline comes rather rapidly, however, till we find him in the shape of a toad (pun on German "Tod"?) whispering into Eve's ear.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:05 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I still wish he'd written a preface to the BBB.

Jeffery Hodges

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