Sunday, May 16, 2010

Term Paper 1

Satan As Id

In 1923, Sigmund Freud laid out a groundbreaking tripartite pattern of describing the human personality. The three basic parts are the id, ego, and superego. When analyzing John Milton’s Paradise Lost one can break down the characters of Satan, the Son, and God by using the three basic parts as a blueprint for character assessment. Obviously, not knowing, but Freud would say subconsciously, Milton used archetypal qualities that define the id, ego, and superego in his verbal molding of the characters -- breathing life into them on paper. Satan is the id, the Son has characteristics of the ego, and God possesses the qualities of the superego. Following I will showcase Satan’s id behavioral traits.

The id is the hedonistic, animal nature that Satan embodies throughout the epic. The animalistic nature of Satan is especially apparent in book IV as Majorie Nicolson takes note in her book A Readers Guide to John Milton saying, “the analogies [Milton uses for Satan] are largely animal-imagery” (p. 188). She further notes, “When comparisons are with birds, they are with the cormorant or the vulture, which far off seem grand and magnificent, but which are carrion birds of prey” (p. 188). As Satan makes his way toward Eden, Milton describes him “As a prowling wolf, / whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey” (IV.183-184). To spy on Adam and Eve Satan takes on the form of a lion and then morphs into a tiger. Satan’s final shape is that of the infamous wily serpent. That is the form he contorts into in order to tempt Eve, and consequently it is also the form he is to forever remain punished in.

The id is the innate part of the human personality. After the fall of Adam and Eve the hedonistic and animalistic ways of Satan are now and always innate in Man. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge, falling to Satan’s temptation, Adam and Eve are conversant with evil. They are no longer ignorant of pride, lust, sloth, envy, greed, gluttony, and wrath. After the fall of Man the seven deadly sins have become inherent qualities in man which must be kept in check for one to regain paradise, therefore, at this point paradise has been lost.

The id only seeks immediate gratification, it does not know right from wrong, and has no understanding of what behavior is possible in the real world. Satan displays his ineptitude of behavioral comprehension by falsely thinking he can outshine God in a battle of wits by wiling Man with base artifice. Satan says to himself of how he will fool Man,
I will excite their minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with design
To keep them low whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with gods; aspiring to be such,
They taste and die…
(IV. 522-27).

The id is also irrational, lacks inhibitions, and its only concern is pleasure. It operates according to the pleasure principle, and is not concerned with reality or what is realistically possible. Somehow, Satan has convinced himself that he can beat the Omnipotent in war or out smart the Omniscient – not realistically possible.

The id is part of the three levels of consciousness, but it is the unconscious, that embodies all of the natural drives of sexual aggressive tendencies. In society the sexual and aggressive drives are deemed taboo and therefore lead to conflict. The nuptial intimacy that Adam and Eve shared was not taboo according to Milton:

Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
Of purity and place and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our destroyer, foe to God and man
(IV. 744-49).

However, the aggressive passion they shared inspired by Satan, after they tasted the fruit was a taboo; it was lust incarnate:

Carnal desire inflaming, he on Eve
Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him
As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn
Till Adam this ‘gan Eve to dalliance move:
(IX. 1012-16).

After acting upon id aggressive and sexual impulses the human personality may feel guilt. Satan’s aggressive impulse is to challenge God, yet at certain times in Milton’s epic, he shows signs of remorse for deviating from God’s heavenly design and regrets his intention to tempt God’s new creation. In retrospect for warring with “Heavens matchless King” Satan says,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owe not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and discharge; what burden then?

O had his powerful destiny ordained
Me some inferior angel, I had stood
Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised
(IV. 54-61).

For a brief moment Satan praises Adam and Eve before he represses his thoughts and gets started on his plan:

Whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured.
(IV. 362-65).

When Adam and Eve have sex in lust, rather in nuptial love, after their disobedience, Milton describes an emerging guilt burgeoning in their lives. He says,

Innocence, that as a veil
Had shadowed them from knowing ill was gone,
Just confidence, and native righteousness,
And honor from about them, naked left
To guilty shame…
(IX. 1055-59).

Immediately following their lascivious act Adam laments to Eve during their argument that,
How shall I behold the face
Henceforth of God or Angel, erst with joy
And rapture so oft beheld?

(IX. 1018-20).

Adam’s guilt for reacting to his id impulses is overwhelming and has grown full ripe, but unlike that sweet tasting fruit, it is a bitter after taste that is left in his soul.
As I previously mentioned, id is the unconscious. Milton brilliantly describes Satan’s voyage as a quest through the dark abyss. The unconscious part of the mind is a dark abyss that only reveals itself when humans have no way of knowing or controlling it. The dark abyss is a metaphor of the unconscious. Hell is bound in “three folds” of “brass, three iron, and three adamantine rock.” Better words could not have been used to describe the unconscious in a metaphoric sense and Milton did it without knowing. With the assistance of Sin, who forever opens up the gates of Hell, Satan breaks free from Hell’s restraints and wanders through Chaos and Night before he finally reaches Eden. He tempts Man and brings the Hell in Adam and Eve, who previously lived blissfully in ignorance before Satan slithered his way in on the scene.
Milton was aware of the human psyche, but not in the terms Freud had described. He shaped Paradise Lost using the three characteristic traits. Patrick Cook said of Satan in his book, Milton, Spencer and the Epic Tradition, “Even though [Satan] is bragging or vaunting aloud, he is inwardly racked with the pain which his evil causes him. His motives are those most elemental but also most childish: pride, envy, and revenge” (p. 46). The id is considered the child aspect of human personality; it is the only part of the personality that is present at birth. Considering the epic begins in medias res, our first impression of Satan is that of a defiant child. Whatever Satan is told to do he aspires to do the opposite action. He brings Sin into Heaven, rebel against God, and introduces Hell to Man. The Satan of Paradise Lost is the epitome of the Freudian id.

Works Cited

Abrams, M.H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors/Seventh Edition. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. Milton, John. Paradise Lost pp. 722-853

Cook, Patrick J. Milton, Spencer and the Epic Tradition. Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1996

Nicolson, Marjorie H. A Reader’s Guide to John Milton. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977

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