University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


In his epic poem, Paradise Lost, Milton’s goal was to “justify the ways of God to men” (PLI.25-26). For his seventeenth-century Protestant audience, this meant reconciling both the paradox of human free will and divine foreknowledge and the paradox of human suffering and God’s goodness. Although God’s speech in Book III makes an explicit argument declaring God’s justice, this paper will show that Book VI, the War in Heaven, completes this argument by attempting to move the poem’s readers beyond the limits of human reason into a divine understanding of the universe. Through temporal compression and confusion, created by the language of Book VI and Satan’s creation of the cannon, the poem elevates the reader from mortal temporality to divine infinity. This perspective, which approximates God’s omniscience, just as the War in Heaven simulates human suffering, allows post-lapsarian humans to understand intuitively how those paradoxes may be harmoniously resolved.