Mammon: Character Analysis in Paradise Lost Book 2

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      Belial and Mammon are birds of the same feather - one stands for ignoble ease and the other for inordinate greed. Milton rightly calls him "the least erected spirit that fell".

      Even when he was in Heaven he was more intent on the riches of its pavement that on the beatific vision. Liberty and dignity, slavery and submission are idle words for him. He believes that tbe thing which really counts and ultimately triumphs is gold.

      As to Belial, the soundness of a policy is to be judged by the amount of ease if offers, so to Mammon, the desirability of an action depends on the amount of gold it is likely to bring. Even the ignoble ease loving Belial has some fight in him, but this greedy monster is all darkness and depravity. Belial's taste is more refined and he has capacity to appreciate the pleasures of intellect; but the brutish Mammon will have nothing but gold. So far as the unfeasibility of any attempt to defeat God is concerned he quite agrees with Belial. He frankly says:

"Him to unthrone we then
May hope, when everlasting Fate shall yield
To fickle Chance, and Chaos judge the strife"

      But it must be admitted that all his arguments and all talk about self-reliance and hatred of God's tyranny are inspired by his inordinate greed for the vast unclaimed gold-fields, of Hell. In fact, freedom and slavery, heaven and hell are equally immaterial to him. He finds absolutely no reason to change Hell for Heaven as the former contains no less gold than the latter. Addressing the fallen angels, he says:

"This desert soil
Wants not her hidden luster, gems and gold;
Nor want we skill or art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heaven show more?"

      He is more depraved than Belial who will wait and see, and has no special fascination for Hell, but Mammon is for living in Hell permanently and building a magnificent empire within its bounds. Even amidst the tortures and sufferings of Hell he fondly clings to gold, and invites others also to do the same. He consoles them by saying:

"Our torments also may in length of time
Become our elements, these piercing fires
As soft as now severe, our temper changed
Into their temper which must needs remove
The sensible of pain."

      What an ignoble solace is this! According to him the fallen angels should kill all their noble instincts and gradually so demoralize themselves as to lose once for all the innate capacity for distinguishing good from evil. He is unwilling to accept a place in Heaven even if it is offered by God, perhaps because in that case God, and not, he, will be the sole master of the tempting stock of Heaven's gold. But Hell has this advantage that its gold is an unclaimed property, So who will be so foolish as to change Hell for Heaven, a better prospect for a worse? The mean groveling angel, whose, cannot be indifferent to the vast quantity of the infernal gold.

"looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches Heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine, or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific,"

      Stopford Brooke rightly says that the empire which Mammon wants to establish in Hell is "the empire of godless utility and wealth". It is the world which says, Man shall live by bread alone.

      But Mammon like Belial does not preach the cult of indolence. He is very enthusiastic and will at any cost build up an empire in Hell. The sentiments expressed in the following lines are no doubt admirable and are exactly the same which inspire today many a builder of earthly empires:

"Our greatness will appear
Then most conspicuous, when great things of small,
Useful of hurtful, prosperous of adverse,
We can create, and in what place soe'er
Thrive under evil, and work case out of pain
Through labour and endurance"

      The worshippers of Mammon still hold fast to the cult of their lord and are ever ready to sacrifice the joys of heaven and welcome the tortures of Hell provided they derive sufficient material advantage therefrom.

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