The persistent notion of a dichotomy in Paradise Lost between the narrative idea and the affective dimension of the poetry—based on Milton's supposed subconscious repudiation of basic Christian doctrine—misrepresents both the poet's understanding of the nonsentimental character of the divine love and his complex portrayal of the essentially creative and restorative nature of divine justice. In Paradise Lost, God's justice is an indispensable instrument of the divine restorative processes of the poem's world, whose continuous aim is to induce from the creature a truly creative response to the divine ways. It is the dramatic fulfillment of precisely this objective which is enacted, throughout the poem, in the dynamic relationship between the merciful Father and the creatively responsive Son. Satan, through the willful perversion of his God-given capacities for creative conduct, functions parodically—and so, indirectly—to confirm the poem's total, positive, moral pattern. Through his increasingly distorted career in the poem, Satan effectively exemplifies both the crippling inadequacies of all recalcitrant behavior and the inevitable process of a self-imposed damnation which accompanies an obdurate and tyrannical abuse of others.

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