Lucifer the antihero
This essay was submitted as part of coursework for American Military University’s English literature course.
My favorite character in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” happens to be Lucifer. I preferred Milton’s depiction of Lucifer as an antihero against the typical notion of a hero because I find it easier to relate to a character that has their flaws but makes up for their shortcomings with commitment to action despite overwhelming odds. I found many of Lucifer’s speeches in Book I inspiring as he tells his followers to not give up hope but to make the best of their situation.
“…Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heav’n.” (Milton, Book I, line 259-263)
Lucifer’s portrayal as a leader of the fallen angels seeking their freedom of the oppressive forces of heaven in the poem is an intriguing juxtaposition to the archetypical portrayal of him as an angry defiler who seeks to destroy things for the sake of destruction. One such villainous depiction of Lucifer in the King James Version of the Bible is in the First Book of Peter, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (5:8)
It is hard to hate a person for desiring to live free, though I found Lucifer’s resolve in the later Cantos of “Paradise Lost” to seek vengeance instead of victory on his battle for freedom disheartening. “Which if not Victory is yet revenge.” (Milton, Book II, line 105). I think it was the transition from the desire to live free to cause harm that transforms Lucifer from the realm of antihero to tragic hero because despite all of his inspiring words and noble ambitions he becomes corrupted by hate and despair and abandons his dreams. I truly enjoyed reading about Lucifer and his schemes throughout Milton’s work even though I knew how the story would end because I wanted to see how this interpretation of Lucifer would handle things differently than the devil I learned about in Sunday school.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost, Book 1. The Northon Anthology. Ed. Steven Greenblatt. Norton & Company, 2006. 1831-1850. Print.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: American Bible Society: 1999; Bartleby.com, 2000.