Sin: Character Analysis in Paradise Lost Book 2

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     The character of Sin seems to be a contradiction in terms. This strange allegorical figure who, along with her far more dreadful son is the subject matter for hot controversy among the Miltonic critics, is the very embodiment of all that is repulsive and nauseating. The allegory is so artfully manipulated that we are scarcely conscious of the fact that Sin is a mere personified abstraction. She is a real, living, hideous, entity before our horrified eyes. The snaky lower part her body, the dreadful hell-hounds gnawing her entrails arc pictures that are difficult to forget. She is both the daughter and wife of Satan! The way in which this repulsive monster tells the details of her incest with her own father and son is shocking in the extreme and is possible only for her. Her son Death always tortures her and the abominable hounds that were born of her as the result of her incestuous relation with her own son constantly vex her with their hideous barking and devour her entrails. Perhaps by this terrible suffering of Sin, Milton wants to signify the sinner’s constant fear of death and the stings of remorse which always pain him.

      The immortal words in which Milton first introduces Sin before us not only mark a triumph of poetical imagination but also show deep instinctive hatred and all-absorbing horror which a sincere and godly Puritan always feels for vice. She is a,

"Woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast, serpent-armed
With mortal sting."

      What a curious and repulsive compound of woman and serpent—the two ever-memorable creatures through whom, according to the Bible, death and damnation found their way into the fair world of God and spoiled the sinless and idyllic life of man amidst the beauties and blisses of Paradise! Though Milton borrowed largely from his predecessors like Dante, Spenser, and Phineas Fletcher in his picture of Sin, yet the splendid imaginative touch which has rendered the monster a living figure before our eyes, a monument of filth and repulsion, is Milton’s own. Under his magic pen the vague abstraction develops into a despicable concrete reality. How admirably the poet presents us with symbolism and builds up a myth simultaneously! The damnable hell-witch has the enchanting smile of a courtezan and bewitches her own father by her sensual and seductive charms. Nothing is sacred in her eyes and she submits to the incestuous embraces of her own father and son! Her relationship with Death is very interesting. He is her son, brother, lover and enemy simultaneously. In front of the cheerless and ponderous seven-fold gates of Hell, this hideous serpent-woman sits twisting her snaky lower part in excruciating agony, face to face with her grim companion. Relating her story to her father she says:—

"Before mine eyes in opposition sits
Grim Death, my son and foe, who sets them on,
And me, his parent, would full soon devour
For want of other prey,—but that he knows
His end with mine involved, and knows that I
Should prove a bitter morsel, and his bane,
Whenever that shall be."

      Eternal suffering and eternal hunger sitting on either side of the gloomy Hell-gales—a terrible picture after all! Millon’s Sin has a subtle intellect which she undoubtedly inherited from her Devil-father, (he cleverest of all the creatures of God. Most unwillingly she submitted to the tyranny of God and accepted the drudgery of the portress of the Hellgates and was always on the lookout for a rebellion against the mighty tyrant of Heaven. So when Satan approaches the Hell-gates and is challenged by the dreadful phantom, Death, and a fight becomes imminent, she cannot but trail her repulsive snaky trail along the ground and approach the field of fatal encounter and rebuke her stupid son, saying:—

"What fury, O son,
Possesses thee to bend that mortal dart
Against thy father's head? and know'st for whom;
For him who sits above, and laughs the while
At thee ordained his drudge, to execute
Whate'er his wrath, which he calls justice, bids—
His wrath, which one day will destroy ye both!"

      Her inherent treachery is further whetted by the irresistible temptation which Satan cleverly holds before them. She will not only be relieved of her painful duty of serving her hateful enemy God but will also have innumerable victims. The sight of Sin's sense of filial obligation is really amusing. She is very obedient to her father-husband to oblige whom she does not hesitate to prove herself a traitor to God. Full of filial emotion she says,

"Thou art my father, thou my author, thou
My being gav'st me; whom should I obey
But thee? whom follow?"

      Thus in all ages sinners follow the inclination of their own minds and try to justify their neglect of duty. On the whole, Milton's Sin is an admirable conception, and her appearance and the story of her life are repulsive as they should be. She is a fit denizen of Hell.

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