Paradise Lost

And God Said...: Light and Dark in Book 3 of Paradise Lost

Part of Milton's genius lies in his ability to stack motif on top of motif, theme on top of theme and image on top of image with high density, without losing any of the effectiveness of his words; in fact, that density increases the effectiveness. Throughout Paradise Lost the motif of light and dark recurs, figuratively contrasting God and Satan, Heaven and Hell. Book three begins with an invocation of Light as a muse, and from then on, the discussions between God and Christ and the decisions of Satan often use light and dark imagery to express contrast. Milton's use of light and dark in the first 55 lines of Book three creates a static and blurred delineation between the two states, expressing that few things are completely one or the other; light can exist in the darkness, and darkness in the light.

By addressing his muse in this book as "holy Light" (3.1), Milton is asking God or rather one of God's minions to aid him in a correct portrayal of God Himself. Using a reference to the Bible through John 1.5, which states, "God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all," is a strong way to invoke both divine imagery as well as the popular reference of knowledge and thought as light. However,...

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