The Devil You Say
John Milton’s Satan and C S Lewis’ Jadis:
A Study of Free Will and Evil
Written by Linda Andrew for MAIS 751, Athabasca University, 2014
The story of Satan is one that forms the foundation for the greatest conflict of all—Good versus Evil—and it is a story that has been revisited in various forms throughout the literature of Western culture. Perhaps the most logical explanation for the staggering amount of focus this topic receives is that it reveals the human need to fully understand the curiosity of why and how evil exists. Further, there is the morbid intrigue of so-called pure evil, and of those persons who make evil their abode. Therefore, the story is told repeatedly, from every angle, under every circumstance imaginable. John Milton and C S Lewis, by different methods, both reiterate the conflict of good versus evil to the reader. C S Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe seem to reveal allegorical parallels between Lewis’ character of Jadis the White Witch and Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost in terms of these characters’ free will, their fall from grace, their decent into evil, and the futility of their struggle to defeat the powers of good.
To understand the complexity of the characters created by Milton and Lewis, it is important to peel the layers back from these works and focus on one analysis of a solitary theme at a time. For instance, one popular interpretation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is that it challenges the political landscape of Milton’s England, with Milton, the surly, unapologetic Roundhead and outspoken announcer of radical ideas, as the character of Satan. However, Milton, like C S Lewis, was a devout Christian, and the writings of both these authors are often imbued with their profound religious ethics. Paradise Lost, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe can be interpreted as such writings and this paper will consider Milton’s Satan and C S Lewis’ Jadis within the scope of Christian philosophy.
So startling is Milton’s portrayal of the Satan character in Paradise Lost that he has influenced ever afterward the way the character of Satan is perceived. Today, it is fair to say that most people of Western culture are more familiar with Milton’s Satan than they are with the Satan character in sacred texts. One of the most fascinating ideas about the figure of Satan, is the notion that he is of sound mind yet, of his own free will, instigated an audacious rebellion to usurp God. According to Milton, Satan was banished to Hell for the evil he willingly submitted himself to, and for his willingness to act upon it. Milton’s supposition is that his character of Satan is self-corrupted and self-directed, and therefore, an analysis of a Satan archetypal figure is incomplete without an inclusion of the elemental premises of “evil” and “free will” as it exists within Milton’s Christian belief system. Since Milton and Lewis endorse the existence of both evil and free will within their writings, this paper will for the sake of argument concede to such, and will define and discuss free will and evil as they pertain to the authors’ models.
The character of Satan of Milton’s Paradise Lost alone provides a bountiful source for contemplation. In truth, references to Satan in English literature are too numerous to mention and the inscrutable character of Satan has been inspiration for many allegorical novels. C S Lewis, whose portrait of Jadis in his Chronicles of Narnia, provides a scintillating glimpse into one turbulent soul’s descent into evil and damnation. Lewis’ tale of the tragic Jadis, like Milton’s Satan, is a discussion of free will, the accountability of rational beings not merely for their willing choices, but also for the willing intent behind their choices, and the consequences of evil.
A Discussion of Free Will As Understood in Milton and Lewis
In the worlds of John Milton’s Paradise Lost and C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, all sentient beings are agents of Free Will—humans, angels, and talking beings alike. Both John Milton’s and C S Lewis’ definitions of free will are informed by their personal adherence to Christian doctrine. In referring to free will within the same parameters, it is purposeful to define it in terms of the Christian understanding of the concept.
Thomas Aquinas’ “Whether Man Has Free-Will?” from his Summa Theologiae, answers several objections opposing the notion of humans as agents of free will, and then presents his argument in favor of the same. He begins his argument by distinguishing between actions taken under natural instinct and those taken under choice of will. Aquinas uses the example of a sheep avoiding a wolf. The sheep does not judge whether or not the wolf presents danger, but is instantly filled with fear and attempts escape (1a, q. 83, ad) Fear and flight are actions representative of the sheep’s natural instincts in the presence of a wolf and, all things being equal, it will run from every wolf every time.
Aquinas claims that Man, conversely, is not ruled by natural instinct but by reason. When encountering a wolf in the wild, a person might, depending on the circumstances, experience fear. However, if a person meets a pet wolf in the home of a friend, that person might judge that the wolf is tame, and therefore will not experience fear because he or she has reasoned that fear is unnecessary in the presence of a tame wolf. The person is able to apply reason to the situation whereas the sheep is incapable of such complex thinking (1a, q. 83, ad). Aquinas posits that “forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will” (1a, q. 83, ad). According to Aquinas, human beings of rational mind have free will because they are able to reason, but animals that are driven by instinct have no freedom of will.
It is not enough to establish who possesses the ability to exercise free will and why, but to make a determination of what constitutes free will as an apparatus that can be utilized by the human individual. St Augustine discusses human self-direction in his book The Problem of Free Choice. He agrees with Aquinas that all humans of rational mind possess free will, but also that free will is a function of reason. Augustine argues that humans, through reason, know they are alive (52); are capable of passion for a thing and through passion, experience higher emotions (53); have ordered thoughts (54); experience thoughts which are controlled by their reasoning minds (55); consider foolish those persons controlled by their passions (55); employ mind to control passions (55); and if humans are in control of their passions, if their thoughts are ordered, then only their free will can change their minds (57). Therefore, if free will is a function of reason, then free will is the apparatus that people exercise in both discerning and decision-making. Free will is choice.
It can be argued that sometimes people make choices against their will, or are put into a position where, if not in that particular position, they may have chosen differently. Others argue that one’s so-called choice is merely the logical outcome of a series of prior events. Most people make countless decisions every day—many of which seem more like reflexive actions than conscious decisions. Mostly, the hosts of daily decisions are not generally life altering. For instance, choosing blue socks instead of black socks in the morning is not likely to have catastrophic consequences. Such a choice is certainly an exercise of free will, but it does not involve judgment of the conscience. Therefore, it is the rational sentient being who is a “moral” agent of free will toward whom Milton and Lewis direct their focus.
In Augustine’s Confessions, he examines rational human beings of free will as moral agents. That is, he believes humans to be individuals with the innate ability to choose a moral act and reject an immoral act, or vice versa. Free will is a function of moral choice—choosing that which is good.
As Augustine grapples with the complexities of the human condition, he states fervently, “one thing lifted [him] up into the light of [God’s] day. It was that [he] knew that [he] had a will, as surely as [he] knew that there was life in [him]” (Augustine, Confessions 136). However, Augustine allows that the human will is not infallible, but is sometimes subject to the turmoil of life. Events happen against one’s will, and acknowledging this truth, Augustine reflects on “if [he] did anything against [his] will, it seemed to [him] to be something which happened to [him] rather than something that [he] did, and [he] looked upon it as not [his] fault” (Augustine Confessions 136). So, it is implicit in Augustine’s words, that free will as a function of moral choice, is motivated by “intent.” If one does not intend to do a certain act, then if that action happens as a force beyond his or her will, then the blame for that act cannot be attached to them. There are instances, for example, when one is caught up in the act of others, such as being trapped in a riot. At times, there seems to be no choice whatsoever, such as sacrificing one thing to save another. In order for an action to be the product of one’s own free will, it must be driven by one’s conscious intent to commit the action.
Augustine takes free will as a rational and intended choice a step further. It is not merely one’s intent to choose to do a thing that is moral; one must also be free to choose its immoral alternative, yet reject it. That is to say, if the only available option is a moral option, then there is no function of free will.
As a Christian, Augustine’s set of ethics and beliefs are reflected by those ethics and beliefs underpinning the moral struggles found in both Milton and Lewis. Firstly, the human being is an entity created by God. Secondly, the human being is not a rock on the beach, but a being of creative, intelligent, moral, and rational mind, possessing free will, and fully accountable for all free will choices. According to Augustine, and reflected in the works of Milton and Lewis, is the premise that God chooses to be purely good as an act of His will, and as the human being is created in the image of God, he or she both understands good and is able to choose in favor of it. Thus, while fallible and sometimes subject to forces beyond his control, Augustine ponders a truth of his existence that states, in spite of life’s mutability, “[he] could appreciate beauty in material things on earth or in the heavens, and what it was that enabled [him] to make correct decisions about things that are subject to change and to rule that one thing ought to be like this, another like that. [He] wondered how it was that [he] was able to judge them in this way, and realized that above [his] own mind, which was liable to change, there was the never changing, true eternity of truth” (Augustine Confessions 151). In essence, Mankind’s truth, incomplete and flawed by reason of Mankind’s mortality is both mirrored and enabled by the constant and infinite truth of a superior good.
In order to choose good, according to Augustine, one must also reject evil. The ability to reject evil is a function of free will that is equal in power to choosing for good. Because the “blame” for evil that happens to a human being against that person’s will is not assigned to that person because free will must have intent, then by the same logic, the “credit” for good that happens to a human being against that person’s free will where there is a lack of intent, is not assigned to that person either. In order to be a moral being, one must willingly choose between what is moral and immoral. One cannot be good against his or her will any more than one can be evil against his or her will.
Therefore, the theory of free will, as defined by Aquinas and Augustine and outlined by Milton and Lewis, states that all sentient rational beings possess free will that is based on reason and intent with the conscious innate awareness of both good and evil. Yet, this theory poses a problem, if part of the theory posits that all such beings are a created image of a wholly good God, and that such beings are accountable to God. What of those people who live in circumstances where moral choices of their will is forbidden. Are these people not free will agents? And if all human beings are free will agents, are such people who are unable to exercise their free will, less than human? In his book, God, Freedom, and Evil, Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame makes a noteworthy qualification of what constitutes free will in a world created by a wholly good God.
He explains moral free will in these terms:
“[A] world containing creatures that are significantly free…is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so” (30).
What is very interesting in Plantinga’s explanation of humans as moral creatures is that he uses the term “significantly free.” Humans are mortal and flawed in a mutable world where happenstances beyond choice and intent occur. However, all things being equal, human beings freely choose between good and evil even under the most extreme of circumstances. While the world as it is does not allow all humans to be completely free at all times, when and if presented with the occasion to freely choose between good and evil, the human being, whether free or bond is fully able to do so. Therefore Plantinga, when examining humans as free will moral agents describes them as “significantly free” within a mutable world, rather than “wholly free” within an immutable world. The reader sees, in both Milton and Lewis, that the characters of Satan and Jadis are also moral agents bound by the same set of rules that govern human beings.
In the worlds of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, all sentient beings possess free will as defined above. Further, Milton’s Satan and Lewis’ Jadis not only exercise free will, but it is the intent behind their free will that determines their choices. Without a full understanding of free will according to the Christian ethic adhered to by both Milton and Lewis, it is difficult to fully understand the motivations of their antagonists. Taking into account a preliminary understanding of the Christian notion of free will, and submitting it as the moral guideline within the story worlds of Milton and Lewis, the reader begins to see that free will is the most imperative and elaborate element in both. Without the presence of free will, both stories fall into an ocean of moral gray areas. Yet, in both Milton and Lewis, there are no moral gray areas simply because free will exists as the method to choose the absolute moral or the absolute immoral. The worlds of Milton and Lewis present as black and white: one may either choose for good or not. If one chooses good—which means, in Milton’s and Lewis’ worlds, obedience to a wholly good God—then one ultimately succeeds. If one chooses against obedience, one is consumed by evil and ultimately fails. With that said, is there an actual choice?
David Reid, in his book The Humanism of Milton’s Paradise Lost, discusses how free will is played out within the realm of perfect good, and it is through this drama that the reader understands the monumental effects of free will. This drama also featured in the thought of Milton’s Europe and therefore, reveals Milton’s contribution to the discussion of free will. Two of the era’s most prominent voices in the argument are those of Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther.
Reid explains that Erasmus adhered to the “middle way” viewpoint of Christianity which involved the freedom of human choice within the parameters of scripture, faith, and moral living (12). Erasmus, a theologian and Catholic priest, embraced a “commitment to a humanist culture” (10). In opposition to his standpoint was Protestant theologian Martin Luther, who posited that free will does not exist for the Christian since Christians are necessarily in bondage to the dictates of God, and therefore “what free choice achieves by its own endeavors…is worthless” (10). Both scholars rejected the other’s claims regarding free will, and this led to a heated debate.
Reid discusses Luther’s The Bondage of the Will, where Luther explains that actions produced by the human will, even the very best of actions, have “nothing to do with acquiring merit in the eyes of God; as far as God is concerned, one can do nothing out of oneself” (10). Luther’s theory puts forth that human beings can only find Divine acceptance through faith and unconditional obedience to Divine will. Reid states that “the implications of Luther’s dogmatic position are distressing, and he drew them out recklessly” (11), especially when Luther depicted humans as donkeys ridden either by God or by Satan, and with no choice that is not imposed by the rider (11). Luther’s definition of free will deeply offended the liberal Erasmus.
Erasmus, while forward thinking, nonetheless embraced the foundational notion of pious and charitable Christian living. As Reid states, “for him, Christian faith made better human beings” (11). While the otherworldly ends of Christianity were clearly present to him, Erasmus wrote with most edge about Christianity as an institution that civilized and humanized” (11). Erasmus believed, according to Reid, that the concepts of Christianity brought order and understanding because, most importantly, the central method of establishing Christianity is through rhetoric based on freedom and reason. Reid comments that “rhetoric has a design upon us; it works on us by urging a higher self upon us or by presenting images to us of what we are supposed to be like” (13). Reid is suggesting that the Christian oratory and dialectic builds vision and reason, and both Milton and Lewis create characters that are quite wicked but certainly rational. More importantly, both the characters of Satan and Jadis are seen to actively engage in logical dialectic when it suits their purposes.
In Paradise Lost, God’s implicit intent of providing free will is to allow freedom for all sentient creatures. Free will is not merely a proviso to allow freedom to exist, but it is also a delicate gift to be used with wisdom and respect. Reid inserts the idea of “temperance” when discussing how free will is regarded by Milton (21), and that it is the tempered, disciplined use of free will that not only civilizes sentient beings but allows them to evolve rationally. “The process of creation in Paradise Lost is not just a harmonious blending but also a cutting and setting bounds to things. The cut that sets humanity free from mere nature is the prohibition of the fruit; that is, the word that completed human nature by bestowing rational freedom on it” (21). Yet, free will in Paradise Lost exists prior to God’s act of creating Mankind and Eden. It is seen in Milton’s world to exist in Heaven where Satan, with his group of angelic followers, makes his initial rebellion against God.
Free will, is not only motivated by reason, but also establishes the existence and expansion of reason, and when not used in keeping with the tenants of the good can turn on itself and become something dark and perverse. It is then ruled by Augustine’s description of “foolish passion”, which precedes toxic desires, addiction, self-destruction, and constant and irrational moral dilemmas. The alcoholic will fret over whether or not to buy liquor to satisfy his or her own craving or to buy milk and bread for his or her children. From the moral good standpoint, there seems to be no question about the solution to this riddle. Yet, within the mounting vortex that is alcoholism, this riddle poses a true quandary since the alcoholic can only perceive his or her priorities through his or her own alcoholic eyes—and this is because the many compounding immoral choices that first established alcoholism has also eroded free will, and with it, the ability to reason in favor of moral good. This disruption of free will into a downward spiral is seen in the characters of both Milton’s Satan and Lewis’ Jadis. Furthermore, their free will, now completely corrupted, leads them into their evil state.
A Discussion of Evil As Understood in Milton and Lewis
In his paper “Paradise Lost and the Origin of ‘Evil”: Classical or Judeo-Christian?” Neil Forsyth discusses the difficulties that arise from accepting “evil” if the origins of evil, so-called, are problematic to pinpoint. For instance, is the concept of evil a notion that has been manufactured through literature over thousands of years as the encompassing title for all that which humans find unacceptable, or does the idea of evil come to us mainly from the traditions of sacred texts? Or, is it a little of both? Forsythe states that “[o]ne of the clearest sources of this immensely fertile tension is in that central question of [Milton’s] poem—where does evil come from? This is the philosophical-theological question, but it is hard to separate from literary aesthetic question—how is evil represented? (518). However, in Milton and Lewis, the reader is privileged with understanding that evil is invasive, certain, and transcendent—it will necessarily effect anyone who travels away from the natural good. In addition, evil is represented consistently as the thing it is, which is constant and predictable, rather than as a brand of evil, or evil “light”. Evil is everywhere the good, through the actions of free will, is weakened—in the Heavenly realms as well as on Earth. Therefore, Forsyth adds “[e]vil becomes a cosmic, not only a human problem” (519), especially in the case of human beings, who were not only as susceptible to temptation as Satan, but are now, in Paradise Lost and in The Chronicles of Narnia, the unwitting targets of superior and vengeful enemies.
According to Milton and Lewis, the characters of Satan and Jadis as moral agents of free will choose for evil by rejecting good, and therefore descend into depravity and damnation. Both Satan and Jadis are defined as morally wicked as consequence of their free choices. Yet, what is wicked to one person may not seem wicked to another. The definition of what is evil is tenuous at times, and changes across cultures and belief systems. Among members of the scientific community, there is the growing opinion that what human beings understand as evil without might be biological within.
One predominant trait of evil is the inability of the evil person to feel compassion or empathy. The science documentary series Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman featured an episode entitled “Can We Eliminate Evil?” Neuroscientist Christian Keysers of the University of Groningen believes that evil originates in the brain. During test studies with people considered normal, he found that when exposed to images of people in pain or having pain inflicted on their bodies, the brains of the test subjects registered activity in the Insula and the Anterior Cingulate Cortex regions. What is most significant, is that the actual subjects who experienced the pain for the test images, registered the same activity in their brains at the time the pain occurred. When the fMRI scans are compared between the people who experienced the pain and the people who witnessed the pain, the scans are almost identical. Keysers claims that “whenever you see the pain of somebody else, you will share it inside of yourself. The other person becomes part of yourself. The pain of others is not just something you see out there…it becomes your pain as well” (Discovery Science 2012). However, in the brains of certain people thought to be “evil”, when exposed to the same tests, their brains register no activity. All of this suggests three alarming ideas: first, evil is the dysfunction of an abnormal brain; second, some people are born evil; third, evil is not the result of free will.
Therefore, it is essential to define evil, as applied by Milton and Lewis within the Christian context. To regard evil in modern scientific terms when considering Milton, renders Milton’s epic poem absurd. Milton’s concept of evil is deeply rooted within his Christian ethic. Simply stated in Christian terms, evil is the resulting state of any willing act that defies either the law of or will of God, and this may seem rather esoteric. Yet, in Milton’s and Lewis’ worlds, the law and will of God are locked together inextricably as the compliment of each other. For instance, in Paradise Lost, it is God’s will that Adam live forever as an immortal being within the Garden, and that Adam continue to do so through his own willing obedience. To this end, God’s law states clearly that Adam must never eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil since to eat from this tree would cause Adam to die. Thus God’s will is a reflection of His law, and vice versa. This is also God’s method in the Heaven of Lucifer while Lucifer is still in his angelic form.
The topic of evil is debated even within the Christian belief system. For instance, Augustine describes evil as a supreme nothingness that cannot exist as a true essence in a universe where an omnipresent God fills its every corner. Augustine states, “for [God], evil does not exist, and not only for [God] but for the whole of [His] creation as well, because there is nothing outside it which could invade it and break down the order which [God] has imposed on it” (Augustine Confessions 148). This is to say that evil cannot “sneak past” God or alter the rules of the universe. Therefore, Augustine poses the question, “when [he] asked [him]self what wickedness was, [he] saw that it was not a substance but perversion of the will when it turns aside from [God], who [is] the supreme substance, and veers towards things of the lower order, being bowelled alive and becoming inflated with the desire for things outside itself” (Augustine Confessions 150). Evil according to Augustine, is measured in its separateness from the substance of good which is God. With this separation into the “lower order” and subsequent lack of essence, there follows degenerate thinking and a distortion of the original, natural self. Evil does not simply put distance between the self and goodness, it also leads to a profound meaninglessness exacerbated by its corrupting influences that twist appropriate self-perspective. Evil alters how one defines his or her being in the world.
Whereas Augustine defines evil as a nothingness created by separation, Thomas Aquinas defines evil as that which is deficient of good. Influenced by the Aristotelian philosophy which posits that evil exists where virtue lacks, and that evil practices where the good is not properly understood, Aquinas takes a “blank slate” approach when applying the notion of evil to people. He states in “The Cause of Evil” from his Summa Theologiciae that “only good can be a cause; because nothing else can be a cause except inasmuch as it is a being, and every being as such, is good” (1a, q49, ad). Thus, people naturally desire the good, but foolishly make decisions that produce evil. He explains that evil is the result of an action, and not a cause in and of itself. “But evil has no formal cause, rather is it a privation of form; likewise, neither has it a final cause, but rather is it a privation of order to the proper end; since not only the end has the nature of good, but also the useful, which is ordered to the end. Evil, however, has a cause by way of an agent, not directly, but accidentally” (1a, q49, ad).
Evil is the effect of willing choices that reject the good but while evil is an element of an immoral choice, it has no true form. The only form is good since good actualizes and produces natural order that is of itself good. In other words, good always ends in good, and its own goodness is its final cause. Since evil is a complete privation of good, and an unnatural corruption, it is not naturally occurring and comes into being as a consequence when an agent who knows good innately chooses against what is natural. To end in evil itself is not a logical assumption of the agent’s errant choice, otherwise Satan willed himself into Hell. But, to make a willing choice that goes against what is known to be natural, it does not matter whether the agent considers ending in evil or not, or whether or not the agent gives evil aforethought, and thus ends up in evil in a way that seems, as Aquinas says, “accidental.” (1a, q49, ad). It is the act of rejecting the natural moral in favor of the unnatural immoral and the rejection exists as a corruption caused by the willing choice. This resulting corruption—or evil—is necessarily the consequence of rejecting the moral. Therefore, all agents are accountable for their wrong choices, and the presence of evil is the proof that the agent committed to a willfully wrong choice in the first place.
Thus, in both Milton and Lewis, the characters of Satan and Jadis seem to be buried beneath the weight of their actions. Subsequently, they both encounter a volte-face from their first being and a transmutation into something bizarre and terrifying—and most importantly, something they were never meant to be.
John Milton’s Satan
In his book A Preface to Paradise Lost, C S Lewis discusses Satan’s irreparable folly and pride that leads to his inevitable fall from a lofty station of grace, nobility, and power to a place of corruption, evil, and eternal damnation. Beyond the hope of redemption, beyond the ability to offer repentance, Milton’s Satan reaches awe-inspiring depths of sheer misery and rage. Discussing how Milton treats his poetic rendition of Satan, Lewis observes that “it is a very old critical discovery that the imitation in art of unpleasing objects may be a pleasing imitation” (Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost 94). Satan is a monster perceived in the heroic backdrop of the epic poem and becomes, as Lewis suggests, “a magnificent poetical achievement which engages the attention and excites the admiration of the reader” (94). Yet, Satan must not, in spite of Milton’s poetic elegance, be mistaken for a heroic character. In fact, John Dryden thought Milton’s depiction of grandness in Satan next door to heresy. Michael Bryson, in The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton’s Rejection of God as King, suggests that in Dryden’s estimation, Milton wrote Satan as “the hero of the poem, and considers the treatment of Satan to be a major flaw” (19). Satan is the villain, and his villainy is displayed in his pride, his jealousy, and his vengeance—and this by his own reason and free will.
Satan is, by all accounts, the supreme antagonist, vengeful and proud, and with no sound basis for his destructive outrage. However, Milton’s Satan is not only the poem’s villainous antagonist, he is also, within Milton’s Christian context, the key player and pivot upon which all of human history precariously balances. Without the character of Satan, the entire drama in what may be argued as the most infamous of all tragic human stories—the Fall of Man—collapses into a banal tale about a Deity who plants a garden, creates two human beings, and they all live happily ever after. It is Satan who delivers the punch, and give the drama its grit. Thus, it is tempting to admire the Satan character, in all his pomposity, but Lewis believes this would be a mistake (Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost 94), since it is Satan’s unattractive arrogance that leads to his cataclysmic fall, and this arrogance is in no way admirable.
Exquisitely crafted in Milton’s poem are the circumstances that lead to Satan’s evil nature: Satan knows he is beautiful and this knowledge is the impetus for the shift from gratitude toward vanity, and this vanity becomes pride. In his pride, Satan feels entitled to greater stature than is his due. When the distinction he craves falls to another—namely Messiah—Satan grumbles. His grumbling becomes envy which evolves into a toxic jealousy that finally culminates in his rebellion and other acts of vengeance. His initial feelings, in and of themselves, are not the errors beyond salvation. Instead, it is Satan’s own force of will, his intentions, and his actions, that seal his final fate. In Satan’s first soliloquy, he outlines his dispute with Heaven:
“From what highth fall’n, so much the stronger prov’d
He with his Thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire Arms? yet not for those,
Nor what the Potent Victor in his rage
Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
Though chang’d in outward lustre; that fixt mind
And high disdain, from sence of injur’d merit,
That with the mightiest rais’d me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along
Innumerable force of Spirits arm’d
That durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power oppos’d
In dubious Battel on the Plains of Heav’n,
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That Glory never shall his wrath or might
Extort from me” (Milton 1, 92-111)
Satan confesses that neither he nor any of Heaven knew the extent of God’s strength until Satan rose up against Him, and Satan seems shocked when he says “who knew?” However, even after encountering the omnipotent strength of God firsthand and finding himself banished from Heaven and cast into Hell, Satan is not changed. He is not repentant, and boasts that his rebellion “shook [God’s] throne”. Satan does not believe that he is beaten. This is because Satan is self-aware, embraces his own “unconquerable will”, and asserts that surrender is something that God, no matter His power, will never get. All this Satan proclaims from the bowels of Hell, and it is this absurdity to which Lewis responds that “the Devil is (in the long run) an ass” (Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost 95).
Satan’s fantastical boasts, lack of repentance, and willingly rebellious choices, all emanate from his enormous egotism. It is pride that underpins his actions. The biblical character of Satan, upon which Milton’s character is based, is both renowned and reviled for his ruinous pride. The Old Testament book of Isaiah gives a sobering overview of Satan’s meteoric fall from Heaven:
“How you are fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart; I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isa 14:12-15).
Lucifer’s pride led to arrogant presumption which then informed his will, and this pridefulness is reflected almost precisely within the first lines of Paradise Lost:
Had cast him out from Heav’n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal’d the most High,
If he oppos’d; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th’ Omnipotent to Arms” (Milton 1, 33-44).
One thing most rebellions have in common, is the belief in eventual victory. No rebellion takes up arms and moves against the tyrant in question if there is no slim hope of winning. It is interesting to apply to Satan the hypothesis that he actually believes he can win. He does not anticipate defeat. He believes that others in Heaven prefer him as a worthy substitute to God, and so believes his is a good cause. On the back of this thinking, he moves forward, only to be badly beaten and cast down. Where he ends up might be considered the inadvertent secondary effect of his war, because he does not reflect upon, prior to his war, the consequences of his actions should he lose.
Logically, if no one had seen the wrath of God prior to Satan’s rebellion, then this is because there had been no cause for God’s wrath prior to Satan’s rebellion. Thus, it is also logical that it is Satan’s evil that provokes God’s wrath, and since God’s wrath had never before been provoked by evil, it is reasonable to conclude that evil did not exist prior to Satan. If this is so, then Hell as a punishment for evil did not exist until Satan revealed himself as evil; Satan had no reason to consider the consequence of Hell prior to his rebellion. Therefore, following Aquinas’ theory on evil, Satan ends in Hell “accidently.” Satan’s skewed thinking comes as a result of his distorted perspective and corrupted natural self which emanates from pride so that his reason is clouded the moment he exercises his free will to choose against the good.
Satan loses sight of his natural self when his focus turns from gratitude to pride. He overlooks God as the one to whom he owes his great beauty and rank, and allows himself to indulge in thoughts and ideas that careen off his natural life path. Fixation on the unnatural leads Satan to rethink himself. He abandons his natural self in favor of the new alteration which through pride is bloated out of proportion. Fully convinced by his own lies and sense of grandeur, he denies that he is a created being.
“That we were formd then saist thou? And the work
Of secondary hands, by task transferd
From Father to his Son? Strange point and new!
Doctrin which we would know whence learnt: who saw
When this creation was? Rememberest thou
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
Know none before us, self-begot, self-rais’d
By our own quick’ning power, when fatal course
Had circl’d his full Orbe, the birth mature
Of this our native Heav’n, Ethereal Sons” (Milton V; 853-57).
Believing in his own greatness leads to Satan’s immediate indignant jealousy when his perceived greatness is challenged. In order to defend his self-centered philosophy, he must fabricate an improved concept of himself equal to his deluded sense of grandeur. Satan must do this because the glory to which he aspired is not conferred upon him by God, but taken on to himself by himself—independently of God. Satan wants more than is coming to him, and covets power. Since, in Paradise Lost, there is no greater power than God, Satan must make himself as God in order to defend his position, and thus proclaims “we know no time when we were not as now; know none before us, self-begot, self-rais’d.” In other words, like God, Satan claims to be uncreated and eternal.
“[T]hat fixt mind…And high disdain, from sence of injur’d merit” (1. 97-98). This is Satan’s conceited reaction after the insult he perceived in being made subservient to Messiah. He is determined, incredibly, that his mind is set on its course because his self-esteem had been wounded. “[F]raught / with envie against the Son of God, that day / Honourd by his great Father, and proclaimd / Messiah King anointed, could not beare / Through pride that sight, & (sic) thought himself impaird” (V. 661-7). Satan feels hard done by because he is jealous.
C S Lewis makes the observation that “no one had in fact done anything to Satan; he was not hungry, nor over-tasked, nor removed from his place, nor shunned, nor hated—he only thought himself impaired. In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, he could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige” (Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost 96). In fact, what is most baffling in the story of Satan is simply the question of “why.” Certainly a rational being of enormous intellect and noble status does not toss flagrantly aside the wealth and bliss of the Heavenly realm without good cause, and therefore it is perplexing that Milton’s Satan “thought himself impaird.” Yet, Satan had already begun on his path to ruin—that is to say, he is already feeling the effects of evil. It is altering his natural mind and fixing it on the unnatural. His jealousy is burning inside him, fueling his hatred, and turning his mind toward wickedness and violence.
In the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, the writer draws a parallel between the King of Tyre and the character of Satan. It is Satan’s jealousy that is depicted as a self-consuming fire.
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and beauty…You were in Eden, the garden of God…You were the anointed cherub who covers…You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you…You became filled with violence within…Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…Therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever” (Ezek 28: 12-19).
It is implicit that when pride corrupts his wisdom, Satan becomes foolish, and part of this foolishness results in his violence and envy. It becomes the fire in his mind that finally envelopes him. Unlike Milton’s depiction of a war in Heaven, Ezekiel suggests that Satan implodes morally in front of the myriad of heavenly beings, to their utter shock. He mutates from a creature of splendor to a nightmarish thing of living death. However, in Ezekiel as in Paradise Lost, the character of Satan is a being of reason, intellect, and will, and he is self-corrupted.
Satan’s pride and jealousy has become murderous rage. Finding himself in Hell without the hope of escape or reprieve, he chooses to make his home there, and states,
“[H]ere 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, then serve in Heav’n” (Milton 1, 258-63).
On this premise, he commands his demons to build his palace, Pandemonium, and seated on his new throne as lord and master of Hell, Satan plots his revenge.
Having now declared himself eternal like God, and therefore equal in greatness, Satan is fully immersed in evil, entombed by its influence, and almost oblivious to its hold over him. A remark in an on-line blog “Satan and the Power of Denial” points out that “Satan is fascinating because his injured pride and jealousy set him on a ceaseless course of revenge against the one being he can never thwart, God, a fact which his own sense of self-importance blinds him to, as he willfully deceives both himself and those around him into believing his altered version of reality” (Delanor npag). Having willfully chosen his course, he no longer has the will to either stop or change. Strangely, under the sway of evil, which is the natural result of his willingly made unnatural choices, Satan has eschewed all his past glory in favor of his new, self-directed identity, and now cannot but see his own lies as truth. In his essay “Go! Sterilise the Fertile with Thy Rage: Envy as Embittered Desire”, William Meredith-Owen mentions that Satan feels “fleetingly empowered by embracing his own nihilism” (467), and for the remainder of Milton’s focus on Satan, the reader sees Satan moving in and out of his despair like the waxing and waning of the moon. Even the steadiness of his intellect has been corrupted, and he becomes an emotional wreck, unable to control his grief and rage any more than he can control the inevitability of his doom. Nowhere in Satan’s tragic tale is this shift between fury and remorse more poignant than in his first glimpse of Eve, alone. When he thinks no one is looking, his bravado slips for a just a moment:
Took the Serpent to behold
This Flourie Plat, the sweet recess of Eve
Thus earlie, thus alone; her Heav’nly forme
Angelic, but more soft, and Feminine,
Her graceful Innocence, her every Aire
Of gesture or lest action overawd
His Malice, and with rapine sweet bereav’d
His fierceness of the fierce intent it brought:
That space the Evil one abstracted stood
From his own evil, and for the time remaind
Stupidly good, of enmitie disarm’d,
Of guile, of hate, of envie, of revenge;
But the hot Hell that always in him burnes,
Though in mid Heav’n, soon ended his delight,
And tortures him now more, the more he sees
Of pleasure not for him ordain’d” (Milton IX, 455-69).
When Satan is alone with his thoughts, when his actions are reflexive, there is a momentary glimmer of the pure and good angel he had once been. In that moment, looking at Eve in her innocence, his reaction is instinctual. He reacts to goodness with goodness, as part of his primary angelic nature—and this he does helplessly, unknowingly. Milton describes Satan as “stupidly good”. Yet, as soon as Satan takes hold of himself, and his will takes over, he defers to his rage, hatred, and jealousy by choice.
Earlier, when Satan sees Adam and Eve together “linkt in happie nuptial League” (Milton IV, 338), Satan is awestruck and embittered:
“O Hell! What doe my eyes with grief behold,
Into our room of bliss thus high advan’t
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to Heav’nly Spirits bright
Little inferior; whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them Divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formd them on thir shape hath pourd” (Milton IV, 358-61).
Seeing Adam and Eve, he recognizes in them the image of God. Satan’s first knee-jerk response is to love what he sees—as an angelic being before his divine Creator. Yet again, when he remembers his anger, He chooses against his natural feelings of love in favor of unnatural revenge, and blames God for the evil that now compels him to harm Adam and Eve:
“Thank him who puts me loath to this revenge
On you who wrong me not for him who wrongd,
And should do I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I doe, yet public reason just,
Honour and Empire with revenge enlarg’d,
By conquering this new World, compels me now
To do what else though damnd I should abhorre” (Milton IV, 385-88).
Satan redirects the blame for his actions, and suggests that he has no other choice but to do as he must. To take any responsibility in his crimes would suggest that he shares the blame, and this his encompassing pride will not allow. He also offers the feeble reasoning that, all things being equal, and under different circumstances, he would never harm an innocent. This is yet another a lie. Through it all, Satan has the ability at any time to simply stop, but it is the evil consuming him that has now clouded his correct judgement, and replaced it with an unnatural one. Satan’s reasoning follows his new convoluted logic, but is reason all the same. In spite of his pride, jealousy, and need for revenge, it is within reason and free will that he still operates. It is reason and free will that he weaponizes and uses to attack Eve.
The on-line Oxford Dictionary defines the word “tempt” as a bid to “entice or try to entice (someone) to do something that they find attractive but know to be wrong or unwise” (npag). Satan, in his serpent form, encounters Eve alone in the Garden and surprises her with his ability to speak. When she asks how it is that he can speak, he tells her “I was at first as other Beasts that graze” (Milton IX, 567), but then claims to have encountered a certain tree with fruit that was beautiful and fragrant. He admits to eating the fruit, and then asserts:
“[E]re long I might perceave
Strange alteration in me, to degree
Of Reason in my inward Powers, and Speech
Wanted not long, though to this shape retain’d.
Thenceforth to Speculations high or deep
I turned my thoughts, and with capacious mind
Considerd all things visible in Heav’n,
Or Earth, or Middle, all things fair and good” (Milton IX, 598-604).
Satan’s first ploy is to tell his own story of eating from the forbidden tree, thereby showing Eve that he is alive and well to tell the tale—the fruit did not kill him. His second ploy is to prove to her, by the power of his own ability to speak and reason, that the fruit had power to open his mind, to improve him, and to elevate him above his original state of dumb grazing beast. His third ploy is his claim that he is now fully able to comprehend and appreciate the beauty and goodness of the natural world. These three ploys of Satan are the manner in which he primes Eve’s reason and free will. In essence, he proves to her that the fruit is not poisonous, and it will improve both her physical and intellectual states.
Satan does not frame his argument with contradictions of what God commanded with regard to the fruit. Instead, he uncovers what seems to be discrepancies in logic and does so by appealing to Eve’s intellect. In the book of Genesis, Satan, in his serpent form, does not ask Eve to question God’s laws, but simply to examine God’s words more closely. “Hath God indeed said” (Gen 3:1, italics my own). His seemingly innocuous question opens a secret passageway to doubt. Satan means, through reason, to move Eve away from God’s first command—which she knows well—to a position of uncertainty where she begins to second guess what she knows well. Once the seed of scepticism is planted, Satan creates a fertile ground upon which to lead Eve away from natural reasoning and toward unnatural reasoning. Milton follows the pattern of the serpent in the Genesis story. Having prepared the way to deceive the woman, Satan proceeds:
“O Sacred, Wise, and Wisdom-Giving Plant,
Mother of Science, Now I feel thy Power
Within me cleere, now onely to discerne
Things in thir Causes, but to trace the ways
Of highest Agents, deemd however wise.
Queen of this Universe, doe not believe
Those rigid threats of Death; ye shall not Die:
How should ye? by the Fruit? it gives you Life
To Knowledge, By the Threatner, look on mee,
Mee who have touch’d and tasted, yet both live,
And life more perfect have attaind then Fate
Meant mee, by venturing higher then my Lot.
Shall that be shut to Man, which to the Beast
Is open? or will God incense his ire
For such a petty Trespass, and not praise
Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of Death denounc’t, whatever thing Death be,
Deterrd not from atchieving what might leade
To happier life? knowledge of Good and Evil;
of good, how just? if evil, if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunnd?
God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just” (Milton IX, 679-703).
It is interesting that Milton’s Satan uses the same device to attack Eve that he himself fell prey to, of his own reasoning and by his own will. Satan did not know then that God would become angry at his rebellion, having never before known God to experience anger, but he knows now as he approaches Eve. When he remarks “if good, how just”, he is suggesting that goodness requires justice, and what is just must be attaining everything one is capable of attaining. However, this brand of justice emanates out of the unnatural choice against goodness, where justice and greed become synonymous, and the very thing that initially spurred Satan toward his acts of rebellion. Then he asks, “if evil, if what be evil be real, why not known, since easier shunnd?” He reasons that it is better to have the ability to recognize evil, if one wishes to avoid it, but that is only after he suggests that there might not be real evil at all. Satan had not known about evil before he became consumed by it through unnatural choice. Knowing now that he exists in a different state than before, he realizes that he is as he is because he rebelled. Whether or not Satan believes he is corrupted by his own choices and now living in a state of evil is moot, since Satan admits nothing to himself about himself, other than his own warped version of the truth. But he does indeed know what it will take to make Eve fall from God’s favor—having experienced the same himself.
Satan is attempting to cause Eve to rely upon her own human logic by introducing debate over the interpretation of God’s directive to not eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact Eve, during her discourse with the serpent, redirects her trust from the ultimate good God and begins to trust in her own self—detached from God. Eve forgets her place in the world and begins to desire, just as Satan did, more than her due. It is because she veers from the natural good which is compliance to God that Eve’s reason falters. As a result, she is deceived by a superior opponent on the mere face of his reasoning, and secure in her inferior reasoning, she eats the fruit. After this act, the die is cast.
When Satan achieves his goal of causing the doubt that brings about the Fall of Man, God punishes him by transforming him into a serpent just as Satan was about to receive what he believed would be just adulation and worship for having destroyed Man so completely. Instead, of the praise he imagined, he heard only hissing.
“His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare,
His Armes clung to his Ribs, his Leggs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous Serpent on his belly prone” (Milton X, 510-13).
He remains in this serpent form, with all the demons of Hell, until God allows him to reassume his own form. Milton adds that they are
“yearly enjoynd, some say, to undergo
This annual humbling certain number’d days,
To dash thir pride, and joy for Man seduc’t” (Milton X, 575).
Therefore, Satan again receives God’s punishment for rebellion, but still is not repentant. Satan will not accept that God will always defeat him. It is the utter futility of Satan’s evil-infused ambition that utterly rewrites his character from wise and good to proud and foolish.
Milton displays beautifully the notion of poetic justice when God allows Satan to gain all that he lusted after. Satan wants his own throne in his own kingdom. He wants great power, and to be “like the Most High” in eternalness and transcendence. He wants worship and praise. He wants fame and renown. These things he receives in bounty, but because they are transfused by the evil Satan courts, they come to him warped, debased, and built on lies.
From the moment Milton’s Satan chooses against the natural order of good in favor of the unnatural immoral, he begins a downward spiral that ultimately destroys his will, and the ability to return to his natural self. In his essay “Satan’s Unconquerable Will and Milton’s Use of Dantean Contrapasso in Paradise Lost”, Ethan Smilie writes that “the death of the will entails, in part, the enslavement of the will to the passions” (100). Satan’s free will to choose the natural good has been destroyed by the unnatural state of evil in which he now exists permanently. As such, the unnatural is now natural to him; lies become truth and all that he once thought good is now the evil he avoids. Smilie remarks that “as it turns out, Satan was on to something when he called the will unconquerable. Demons…cannot conquer their own sinful wills…an unconquerable will is not, therefore, something to be admired in a creature” (100). Satan’s separation from God, his self-made prison of evil, and his inability to repent, demonstrates original sin “to be its own punishment” (101). While Milton’s character of God seems like the reticent Punisher and Judge, God merely relinquishes the rope Satan violently demands—the rope with which Satan hangs himself—and simply allows nature (or “unnature”) to take its course. In the end, it is Satan who destroys himself.
John Milton’s elaborately crafted character of Satan and the circumstances under which he falls from grace is a testimony to the devastating level of accountability implicit in free will. Milton subscribes to the thinking that human beings are moral agents of free will fully accountable for their choices, and this is seen in his focus on the consequences of choices made by Adam and Eve. If humans are endowed with free will, then Milton shows Satan as the antithesis of the human condition, in that Satan, as seen in his interaction with Eve, not only seeks to distract humans from the recognition of good and of evil, but also attempts to cloud and twist human reason using logic formed by the influence of unnatural evil.
Like Milton, other writers have developed characters that reflect the Satan archetype with strong caveats and guidelines for both resisting and avoiding the ways that lead to evil and damnation. C S Lewis’ character, the Empress Jadis of Charn, is such an archetype and reiterates that the state of evil emanates from conscious freedom of choice.
C S Lewis’ Jadis of Charn
The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis, was published in England in 1955. Written as the prequel to his popular novel The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (LWW) published in 1950, The Magician’s Nephew (TMN) touches on many issues including the continuing struggle between good and evil, the consequences of one’s choices, and heroic redemption. The character of Jadis figures prominently in both TMN as the Empress of Charn, and in the LWW in the person of the White Witch, but it is her role of the Satan archetype that enhances her character from a mere antagonistic villain to a study in evil.
Whereas biblical texts offer spare glimpses of Satan, Milton’s concept of the Satan character presents him as a complete person with historical details and a fully developed account of his motivations—even though many of these motivations remain shrouded in mystery. Such mystery can be attributed to the Jadis character since her history, and the reader’s first understanding of her worldview is based on a short narrative provided by Jadis herself and is, therefore, somewhat unreliable. What is certain, however, is that Satan, as a consequence of his own willful actions, is banished from Heaven and cast into a place of eternal Death. Likewise Jadis, by her own actions, is cut off from life and stranded forever in a dead world. Jadis mirrors Milton’s Satan in her war for a throne that may or may not have been rightfully hers, her escape from Charn, her interaction in the garden with Digory, her cursed reign over Narnia, and her ultimate defeat by the resurrected Christ figure Aslan; like Milton’s Satan, she descends into an unrecoverable state of evil by her own free will, and this through pride, vengefulness, and her over-weaning sense of entitlement.
By birthright, Jadis is the rightful queen of the world of Charn. At least, this is true in her mind. The reader first encounters, in TMN (The Magician’s Nephew), the tall and beautiful Jadis at the royal palace of enormous Charn, a once populous capital city now in ruins. Lewis gives a stark vision of Charn: cold, desolate, and dead. Even the red-giant sun that barely lights the sky is bleak, and provides little warmth. Lewis describes “a dull, rather red light, not at all cheerful. It was steady and did not flicker…The sky was extraordinarily dark—a blue that was almost black. When you had seen that sky you wondered that there should be any light at all” (Lewis, TMN 41). Through the eyes of two human children, Digory and Polly, the reader is introduced to a world where nothing living exists. “[T]here [are] no ants and spiders or any other living things you expect to see in a ruin; and where the dry earth [shows] between the broken flagstones there [is] no grass or moss” (45). The rivers have run dry ages since, and except for the infrequent stirring of an icy breeze, there is utter silence—a loud and frightening silence.
As the children venture further into the city and enter the palace, they see remnants of the life that was once there—fountains, arches, pillars, and other ornamentations—offering the impression that the palace had long ago enjoyed splendor and fullness of life. While Lewis’ description is vivid, it is also controlled. Never allowing the reader to forget that Charn is death manifested, Lewis hints that there hangs still in the stagnant air, the echo of the curse that brought this death. Hugo Crago, in his paper “Such Was Charn, That Great City,” remarks that “Charn is a world of death. The first thing the children notice on their arrival is the red light. They do not realize at this point that it comes from a sun that is dying. It is cold…Nothing moves” (42). And then the reader meets Jadis.
In the palace’s Hall of Images, Digory and Polly discover a multitude of wax statues of the royal lineage of Charn, dressed in majestic apparel, seated on thrones. The decay of corruption that brought Charn to its final and tragic annihilation is illustrated by Lewis on the expressive faces of the lifeless figures. As the children begin to inspect the statues, they see at first that “the men and women looked kind and wise, and they seemed to come of a handsome race” (Lewis, TMN 48). Yet, further along, the faces “looked very strong and proud and happy, but they looked cruel. A little further on they looked crueller. Further on again, they were still cruel, but they no longer looked happy. They were even despairing faces: as if the people they belonged to had done dreadful things and also suffered dreadful things” (48). The reader understands that Charn is an ancient world with a long and unbroken royal ancestry. Furthermore, it is ostensibly explicit that, over time, something in this line of sovereigns went terribly wrong.
Jadis is the final figure, the last Queen of Charn, and exceedingly more intimidating than her forebears. She is described as having “a look of such fierceness and pride that it took your breath away. Yet she was beautiful too” (48). After the children inadvertently break the spell that holds Jadis frozen in time, she rises after centuries—perhaps even millennia—of sleep, but for her, barely a moment has passed. It is this state of being out of her own time that is partly responsible for leading her to a deluded understanding of her place in the world.
Jadis is the last of her line, and indeed the very last of her kind. Her own terrible truth, the truth she does not accept at any point during the remainder of her life, is that she is no longer sovereign of anything except the dusty bricks of dead Charn. Like Milton’s Satan who was so intent on ruling, he announced from his place of punishment that it is “better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n” (Milton 1, 263). Jadis knows she cannot remain in Charn, but she will soon discover that elsewhere, she is nothing, no one. Her new journey upon meeting Digory and Polly is one as tragic as the death of her own world. Whether or not, at this point, she is meeting a well-deserved fate is unclear, because she is not solely responsible for the curse that destroyed her world—that is, only if the reader allows that Jadis is giving an accurate accounting of the last days of Charn.
Magical abilities are commonplace within the royal house of Charn. In Milton, Satan’s wickedness reflects magic as immediate goals—he wants what he wants now. He engages in a poorly conceived war with God because of his pride and headlong actions, and Jadis demonstrates magic as her means to obtain immediate results. Jadis does not panic as her palace begins to collapse. An enormous door stands in her way, and amid the falling masonry, the thunderous toppling of stone walls, and the rising clouds of dust, she calmly speaks to it. With a wave of her hand, it crumbles. In her every movement, Jadis is profoundly fearless and the ultimate being of power on Charn. Hugo Crago points out “Jadis, The Last Queen, but the Queen of the World…Her power is obtained only through renouncing Life” (43).
That Jadis accepts magical abilities is part of her understanding of the world, but it is clear that Jadis is more skilled in the magical arts than others in her kingdom. Thus, the matter of magic is addressed within her first moments with frightened Digory when she scrutinizes the boy and announces, “You are no magician. The mark of it is not on you. You must be only the servant of a magician. It is on another’s Magic that you have traveled here” (Lewis, TMN 54). In the world of Charn magic simply exists, and magicians—who are mortal beings—are born, not made.
Outside in the bland red sunlight, Jadis and the children stand on a terrace overlooking the sprawling city below. It is now that Jadis gives a brief explanation of her history as she looks out over her principle city with something resembling grief. That is to say, Jadis is not without regret at the sight of how utterly Charn is fallen as she directs the children, “Look well on that which no eyes will ever see again…Such was Charn, that great city, the city of the King of Kings, the wonder of the world, perhaps of all worlds” (59). In her lifetime, Charn was vastly different than the crumbled ruin it is reduced to. Jadis describes her city when “the whole air was full of the noises of Charn; the trampling of feet, the creaking of wheels, the cracking of the whips and the groaning of slaves, the thunder of chariots, and the sacrificial drums beating in the temple” (59). Lewis builds a picture of a bustling and productive Charn, similar to Imperial Rome: a pre-industrial culture that employs slavery, has an established religion, and where the monarch’s rule is absolute. If Jadis sees herself in the same light as the Roman Emperors, then it is not surprising that she is selfish, elitist, and entitled. The citizens of Charn were not just her subjects, but her possessions. Jadis freely admits that it was she who willingly chose to destroy her world.
Her regret at Charn’s destruction does not imply that she would do things differently, given a choice, and so her regret rings hollow. In Paradise Lost, Satan experiences something resembling regret when he considers himself, and his followers with him, all cast into Hell:
“Cruel his eyes, but cast
Signs of remorse and passion to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather…condemn’d
For ever now to have thir lot in pain,
Millions of Spirits for his fault amerc’t
Of Heav’n, and from Eternal Splendors flung
For his revolt,
Yet faithful how they stood,
Thir Glory witherd” (Milton 1, 600-05).
Satan is saddened briefly, but in the next moment, he builds his palace of Pandemonium and continues undaunted in his rebellion. Likewise, Jadis is not beaten yet. If she cannot rule in Charn, she believes it is her right to rule elsewhere.
During Jadis’ narrative of the days leading up to the destruction of Charn, she describes a struggle with her sister for the throne of Charn. It is uncertain if one sister was already on the throne and usurped by the other, or whether they both believed they had equal claim to the throne. According to Jadis, she was already on the terrace of the palace as her sister invaded Charn with her rebel army. She describes the final day of Charn to the children, saying the last of the war between herself and her sister “raged for three days here in Charn itself. For three days I looked down upon it from this very spot. I did not use my power until the last of my soldiers had fallen, and the accursed woman, my sister, at the head of her rebels was halfway up those great stairs that lead up from the city to the terrace” (Lewis, TMN 60). Clearly, this is Jadis’ perspective on the events of that day.
In the Hall of Images, it is revealed that all the rulers of Charn had become corrupt and cruel. There is no indication that Jadis’ sister was somehow different than her peers or better than them. Jadis also remarks that both sides wielded magic, but that each had sworn that magic would not be used. Jadis claims that “after the war had begun, there was a solemn promise that neither side would use magic. But when she broke her promise, what could I do?” (60). When Jadis’ sister broke the rules of engagement, Jadis unleashed her full power in the form of an ultimate magical weapon called the “Deplorable Word.” Upon the act of speaking this word, all life that remained in Charn died—except Jadis. Hence, the reader sees that, while Jadis struck the coup de grâce, her sister was also culpable for the destruction of Charn. Jadis did battle for a throne against another who was as powerful, except for one weapon, as she. In this way, she differs from Milton’s Satan who battles Milton’s Messiah who has an actual right to the throne of Heaven and is infinitely more powerful.
Jadis is a ruthless tyrant, and expects, like the monarchs of Charn before her, to rule with an iron fist. She explains her rights as supreme ruler to Digory, maintaining that “[she] was the Queen. They were all [her] people. What else were they there for but to do [her will…How should [a commoner] understand reasons of State?…The weight of the world is on [the sovereign’s] shoulders. [Rulers] must be freed from all rules. [Theirs] is a high and lonely destiny” (61). Jadis believes she is not only above the law, but that her word is law. Milton’s Satan behaves in the same unilateral manner, and although Satan hears the counsel of his ranking demons, in the end, it is Satan himself who takes the ultimate action.
Because her sister is dead, there is no way to know how much of Jadis’ story is actually true, or slanted in her own favor. Interestingly, Jadis admits to her actions freely and without shame. Being the prideful queen she is, she has no need to fabricate or embellish the truth—especially not to children whom she deems inconsequential. In fact, Jadis does not believe she has done anything wrong, in spite of seeming saddened by the destruction of Charn. In the same manner in which Milton depicted Satan, Lewis also obscures his character of Jadis with a perverse existentialism where that which does not meet with her truth is absurd. Moreover, it simply does not exist for her.
When Jadis finds herself quite alone on a dead planet, she does as Milton’s Satan did. She makes herself its ruler. While Satan resurrects a palace to his own perceived greatness by building Pandemonium and placing himself on a throne there, Jadis goes to the place where all rulers of Charn before her are displayed and seats herself among them. Satan’s ineffectual and damned advisory committee of demons in Paradise Lost are as serviceable to him as the waxen figures are to Jadis, but she seems less interested in honoring her predecessors than she is in displaying herself as the last and fiercest of them all. Under the spell of sleep, Jadis, as the Satan archetype, becomes less reminiscent of Milton’s Satan and calls to mind the image in of Lucifer in Inferno whom Dante describes as “the emperor of all the realms of gloom stuck from the ice at mid-point on his breast” (Dante XXXVI, 28). However, the image of ice as punishment is mentioned by Milton when he speaks of the damned moving between “Beds of raging fire to starve in Ice” (Milton II, 596). Silent and unable to move, Jadis is frozen on her throne until the spell is broken.
That there are similarities between Jadis and other characters within the Satan archetype is not surprising. In his article in Renascence, Mervyn Nicholson of Thompson Rivers University discusses “the scholarship of imagination,” and states of Lewis that he “read—and re-read—with an intensity that derived from his own creative instinct…Lewis absorbed, recreated, and transmitted literary materials from other authors” (43). Outside the Christian tradition of evil characters, Jadis is also comparable to the concept of Iblis, the Muslim Devil, whom Laura Berman in The Journal for Academic Study of Magic describes as having a malicious nature, the desire to control others, an innate inhumanity, and “a combination of corrupt physicality and inherent evil” (171). Jadis is inhumanly tall, inhumanly strong, and utterly heartless.
Desperate to escape her prison on dead Charn, Jadis does so under the power of the magical ring by grasping Polly’s hair when Polly puts her ring on her finger. In the soft green light of the Wood-Between-The-Worlds, Jadis loses her power instantly, and releases her grip on Polly. Lewis describes her as “much paler than she had been; so pale that hardly any of her beauty was left” (Lewis TMN 66). When Satan first wakens to find himself in Hell, his beauty has faded and Milton describes him as
“th’ excess// Of Glory obscur’d: As when the Sun new ris’n
Looks through the Horizontal misty Air
Shorn of his Beams” (Milton 1, 591).
When Jadis travels next to Earth, she regains her beauty, but not her innate magical abilities. In fact, away from Charn, she loses the ability to speak magic completely, and in LWW, she must use a wand or magical device to invoke her evil power. While the Wood-Between-The-Worlds is not comparable to Milton’s Hell, a parallel can be drawn between physical displacement and a significant loss of power for both Satan and Jadis.
The question of the evil nature of Jadis is resolved later in TMN when seen in contrast to the ultimate nature of good represented by the character of Aslan in the world of Narnia. In her paper, “True Independent Women: A Close Comparison Between CS Lewis’ Jadis, the White Witch, and JRR Tolkien’s Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood,” Neetha E. Mony discusses the reader’s journey in deciding upon the level of goodness in Jadis. It is this journey that helps develop the character of Jadis in that it “produces a sense of mystery, as the reader has to decipher personally whether [Jadis is] good or bad…but it is not until the other characters meet [her] that [her] true virtue is revealed” (npag). Upon encountering the kingly Aslan, and comprehending his untouchable power, Jadis “shrieked and ran” (Lewis 100). In the same way, Milton’s Satan and his forces recognize, at the climax of the war in Heaven, the power of the Son and “they astonisht all resistance lost” (Milton VI, 838), and scatter before Him “strook…with horror backward” (VI, 862). Jadis is not able to remain in the presence of Aslan’s ultimately good and superior power.
Later, the reader encounters Jadis again in the mysterious and sacred Garden on the hilltop. The walled Garden has one gate, and upon this gate is posted a warning:
“Come in by the gold gates or not at all
Take of my fruit for others or forbear
For those who steal or those who climb my wall
Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair” (Lewis, TMN 146).
While the young hero Digory is sent to the Garden by Aslan to pick and carry back a silver apple, Jadis trespasses into the Garden by “climb[ing] in over the wall” (149), just as Satan, in the Eden of Paradise Lost, “at one slight bound high over leap’d all bound of Hill or highest Wall” (Milton IV, 180). Digory’s purpose to retrieve the apple for another by entering through the gates complies with the warning. Unlike the human characters in Paradise Lost, Digory is able to resist the temptation to pick an apple for himself. Since Jadis has power as her agenda, and because she is prideful and entitled, she ignores the warning and eats an apple of her own free will. In doing so, Jadis becomes both the Edenic “tempter” and the “tempted” Eve whose logic failed.
Milton’s Satan tempts Eve by appealing to her reason. Jadis, when she meets Digory, does the same. She first calms his fears saying, “I mean you no harm” (Lewis, TMN 149), and then promises him “knowledge that [will] make [him] happy all [his] life” (149). Digory protests that he does not want to hear, “but he did” (149) want to hear very much. Jadis, like Milton’s Satan, finds the place where Digory is most vulnerable, and attacks him there. Knowing of Digory’s sick mother, she informs him “do you know what that fruit is? I will tell you. It is the apple of youth, the apple of life” (150). Then she suggests to Digory to “use your magic and go back to your world. A minute later you can be at your Mother’s bedside, giving her the fruit. Five minutes later you will see the color coming back to her face. She will tell you the pain is gone…Soon she will be quite well again…Your home will be happy again. You will be like other boys” (150). Like Satan who told Eve that she would be better for eating the fruit, Jadis tells Digory that an end to his mother’s sickness will restore normalcy to his life—it will make him better. When Digory is still unconvinced, like Satan Jadis begins to question Aslan’s motives to Digory. “What has the Lion ever done for you that you should be his slave?” (151). Then, as Satan told Eve that God would not be angry over such a “petty trespass”, Jadis says “what can he do to you once you are back in your own world?” (151). Digory refuses, escapes the Garden, and returns with the apple to Aslan who then rewards Digory’s perseverance with the cure for his mother’s ailment.
Until Jadis enters the land of Narnia, she is referred to as a “Queen”, but once in the land of Narnia, she is called a “Witch.” This is because Narnia is where Jadis, who is fatally flawed by her own prideful sense of superiority, becomes the White Witch—evil beyond any hope of redemption. As a study of the Satan archetype and when compared to Milton’s Satan, it is reasonable to assume that Jadis, like Satan, did not begin as an evil creature. Jadis, while ruthless and selfish, had not been indwelt irrevocably by evil in Charn, but in Narnia, after she imperiously disregards the Garden’s warning, she stumbles by, what Thomas Aquinas defines as “accident”, into a state of evil that claims her from that moment on. Like Satan’s motive for causing war in Heaven, by eating the apple Jadis thought to gain the power to rule, and though she does gain power after a fashion, the power produces the by-product of evil. Like Milton’s Satan, Jadis’ pride causes her descent into a state of damnation. It is when she willingly ignores Aslan’s law and eats the forbidden fruit, that Jadis seals her fate.
Aslan explains later to Digory and Polly that Jadis “won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it” (Lewis, TMN 162). Now immortal, but soulless and despairing, Jadis’ evil state is manifested in her twisted obsession to rule Narnia—even though she is no longer fit to rule anywhere. Although she presents herself as a queen—because, to her mind, this identity has not changed—it is now a false identity rather than her true nature as it may have been in Charn. Perhaps, a portion of her despair lies in knowing that she can never return to who she was. Neetha Mony points out that the very word “jadis” translates from the French as “formerly” (npag). Jadis is transmuted into a vile and pitiful creature—a mere shadow of the person she once was. Similarly, Milton’s Satan, banished from Heaven, stripped of his luminous beauty and rank, and cast into Hell, is only a glimmer of his former self. Lewis’ Jadis echoes the misery of Milton’s Satan doggedly impelled by his will and sense of vengeance that now establishes the evil state polluting his reason and rewriting his truth. Thus, like Milton’s Satan, Lewis’ Jadis assumes a new identity to mask the enormity of her failure and doom.
Satan establishes an evil reign in Pandemonium—one that is troubled by pain, despair, and frustration, one where his body is cursed, and one that is destined to fail. In the LWW, the reader sees that Jadis has conquered Narnia with evil magic, and has placed herself on a throne over the land. Jadis, her natural name, is long forgotten in favor of her unnatural identity as the “White Witch.” Her illegitimate reign brings with it a curse on Narnia’s natural world. In a relentless, aberrant Winter, the Narnian economy fails, its citizens either die or hide themselves for fear of the White Witch and her Secret Police, the land is frozen like death, and as Mr Tumnus laments it is “always winter and never Christmas” (Lewis, LWW 23).
In Edmund’s meeting with Jadis, the reader sees again recollections of Satan’s temptation of Eve in Paradise Lost. Seeing that Edmund desires dominance over his brother and sisters, Jadis appeals to his childish longing in the same way she appealed to Digory’s longing to find a cure for his sick mother; she offers Edmund his heart’s desire—a throne at her side with his brother Peter as his servant. Shirley Law, in her article “Into the Wardrobe: Imagining and Re-Imagining Narnia”, describes Edmund as “determined and self-interested” (12), and when Jadis offers him a means to attain his misguided goals, he accepts and falls into her power. It is not an apple that is presented this time as the evil to be ingested, but Turkish Delight. Jadis magically produces this candy and presents it to Edmund “enclosed in an exquisite silver embossed and jewelled lidded box” (15). In essence, the wicked “fruit” comes to Edmund in a coffin (15), signifying the death it is meant to impose not only on himself, but also on his siblings. When Edmund succumbs to Jadis’ temptation, he becomes her slave. Later on, Jadis confronts Aslan, and lays her evil claim on the life of Edmund, the guilty one. Aslan, in response, offers himself in Edmund’s place.
Aslan the “innocent” taking the place of Edmund the “guilty”, and ultimately defeating Jadis through the “deeper magic” of pure Good, is both unforeseen and inconceivable to Jadis. Devoured inside the darkness of her own doing, she is now blind to the light outside. For Jadis, as also for Satan, her lies have become her truth and all goodness has become evil. Since nothing exists for her outside her own contaminated will, the overcoming power of goodness escapes her. In fact, she does not suspect Aslan’s motives when he volunteers himself in Edmund’s place, and sees only the thrill of conquering Narnia by murdering her great enemy. At the sacred Stone Table, Jadis scoffs at Aslan, and gloats, “Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor?…Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die” (Lewis, LWW 141). It simply does not occur to her to question Aslan’s logic, because Jadis believes all that is good is also weak.
In Book IV of Paradise Lost, Satan considers momentarily that he might ask God for forgiveness, but then realizes that since he cannot not offer sincere repentance, he cannot receive an omniscient God’s forgiveness. Thus, Satan surrenders fully to his evil state saying:
“[F]arewel Hope, and with Hope farewel Fear,
Farewel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good” (Milton IV, 108-09).
War Satan knows well, and all the violence and cruelty it incurs. Good has become unnatural to him, and for God to retaliate against Satan using only goodness, is a meaningless enterprise for Satan. After causing the Fall of Man, Satan boasts to his demons:
“I am to bruise his heel;
His seed, when is not set, shall bruise my head;
A World who would not perchance with a bruise,
Or much more grievous pain?” (Milton X, 497-501).
Clearly, Satan does not understand, because he can no longer think in terms of goodness, and so believes that claiming ownership of the Earth is worth a bruise or two. He is unaware that the Man’s bruised heel and his own bruised head are caused together by a single act. Satan, arrogant and selfish, comprehends neither the worth nor potency that the humility and selflessness essential in sacrificial love exerts. The “deeper magic” of love is meaningless to both Satan and Jadis, and this “deeper magic” of love is portrayed exquisitely in Lewis’ character of innocent Aslan and his selfless acceptance of death in the place of guilty Edmund.
When Aslan is resurrected after his ritualized murder on the Stone Table, Jadis is shocked to see him alive again, and reacts to his presence with “an expression of terror and amazement” (Lewis, LWW 161). In his article, “No Tame Lion: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” Richard Alleva discusses the abject hollowness of Jadis’ existence. He explains that she is “beautiful and vacant. She has stared into nothingness and believes in nothingness and, finally, is nothingness” (24). Like Satan, slavishly bearing the timelessness of Hell with futile imaginings of unachievable glory, Jadis does not recognize the inevitability of her defeat. Her days have merged together into an endless emptiness and, as Aslan pointed out to Digory, such length of days with an evil heart leads to the despair Jadis is well acquainted with by the end of her fruitless life. For Jadis, as for Satan, it was all for naught.
Jadis’ free will choices are initially informed by her pride and greed. Devoid of empathy and compassion, she readily makes decisions that she considers beneficial to her own ambitions, but becomes mired by later flaws in judgement. Her choices, now plagued by her evil state, compound until she cannot choose differently, or rather, cannot choose the natural moral and reject the unnatural immoral which now govern her every decision. Like Milton’s Satan, she becomes enslaved by her evil state until all goodness is finally ludicrous to her. As with Satan, her evil state disrupts her ability to reason naturally, it destroys her ability to recognize the natural good, and therefore, it demolishes her free will. Evil, as the by-product of Jadis’ unnatural choices leads her, as it does Milton’s Satan, to the extreme of irretrievable damnation.
In Paradise Lost, John Milton establishes the character of the beautiful Cherub Lucifer as a moral, rational Being of free will who chooses to reject his natural state of perfect goodness in favor of the unnatural immoral. In so doing, he falls into a state of evil so profound that the ability to reason for good fails him, and he is unable to return to his natural state. Because he is accountable for his free will choices, he suffers the consequence of being banished forever from the Heavenly realm when he is cast into Hell.
Since Lucifer’s natural state of goodness is permanently lost to him, the evil state in which he now exists transforms him into a monstrous creature that is incapable of the attributes of goodness and morality, and as such, his identity becomes Satan—a fallen angel whose light is dulled and beauty is scarred. Because he is forever separated from goodness, he is motivated only by his vengeful will, which has become twisted under the influence of his evil state. Milton, through the pitiful character of Satan, demonstrates the function of free will as an instrument that is emancipating yet tenuous. As a function in Milton’s world, it serves best the moral choice, where it remains healthy and natural. However, when used to reject the moral, it becomes subjugated by the state of evil.
In The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C S Lewis applies a similar lesson through his character of the Empress Jadis of Charn. Once regal and beautiful, Jadis begins on a journey of free will that soon escalates disproportionately as she consistently rejects the natural good. Her wrong choices culminate in a defining act of prideful rebellion, the consequence of which is enslavement to a perpetual state of evil that dictates her every action throughout the remnant of her miserable existence.
Once transformed by her evil state, her beautiful face becomes deathly white and her royal bearing is marred by the hatred driving her narrowly contained rage. She is no longer Jadis the Queen. She has become the White Witch. Lewis, like Milton, analyzes the inescapable liability that accompanies the autonomy of free will by subjecting to study the alarming effect of evil that occurs when free will is used to reject goodness. Jadis, who once relished the victimization of worlds, through the evil state that now governs her free will, becomes herself its final victim.
Both Milton’s Satan and Lewis’ Jadis develop by choice an all-consuming pride that is constructed from recognition of their astounding beauty and power. It is not merely that they chanced to realize and accept their own magnificence that led to their falls. The character of Satan in Paradise Lost and the Jadis character in The Chronicles of Narnia were once truly extraordinary in their respective worlds, and to acknowledge this is akin to a statement of fact. However, both Satan and Jadis moved from recognition to conceit. This conceit led to a level of pride that became ruinous when it morphed into an indulgent sense of entitlement. They began to presume that their greatness was not a reward in itself, but that it should be rewarded with more. Because they could not comprehend good as a final end, they were seized by an evil-inspired greed that knew no end. Once lost in their evil state, neither Satan nor Jadis would ever be satisfied again.
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 While the name Lucifer appears only once in biblical text, the name, according to Strong’s Concordance, comes from the Hebrew masculine noun helel, meaning shining one. The above biblical passage refers to the shining one being cast out of Heaven. This is supported later in Luke 10:18: “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightening fall from Heaven.” Milton connects the character of Satan to the biblical Lucifer as the individual who fell from Heaven, and suggests Lucifer was Satan’s identity before his banishment. This paper will concede to Milton’s connection.
 Both the King and city of Tyre are rebuked by the Old Testament writers for dishonest trade and sexual perversity. However, this king was also renowned for his wickedness and pride. The Old Testament writer is drawing a parallel between the King of Tyre and Satan, since it is unreasonable to assume from this passage that the King of Tyre walked in the Garden of Eden or was a Cherub in Heaven.