In the excerpts from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the reader can see the various elements of style Milton uses to achieve two different effects. His diction produces a brutal tone in Passage A, while painting an idyllic picture in Passage B. Milton’s sentence structure supports his diction. The syntax of Passage A is sharp, while Passage B’s is more flowing. Figurative language, especially conceit, is pervasive throughout both passages, and the poetic devices – mainly hyperbole – add to the overall effect of the passages. The two passages influence the reader, persuading him to believe that war or hostility is bad and beauty is good, no matter what the situation.
Milton’s diction, or word choice, in the two excerpts is essential in producing his desired effect. In Passage A, Milton wants to portray the idea that war and conflict are bad; many of his words show the ferocity of confrontation. For example, in the first line he makes known the “adverse” and “hideous … shock” of war. Later, he describes the “horrible discord” of the event in line 5. Similarly, the diction of Passage B establishes the almost heavenly qualities of the Garden. The “cloud of fragrance” (line 29) in which Eve stands is a reflection of the beauty which envelops her. Milton also describes Eve as the “fair virgin” in line 43, thus extending the idea of heaven on earth through Eve’s purity.
While Milton’s choice of words helps communicate his ideas, the structure of that language furthers his points in both passages. Passage A utilizes (relatively) short sentences that get right to the point. Sentences such as “dire was the noise / Of conflict” and “All Heaven / Resounded, and, had Earth been there, all Earth / Had to her centre shook” from lines 6-7 and 12-14, respectively, waste no time in presenting the reader with the ugliness of warfare. Using a converse style of syntax, Milton, in Passage B, presents Earth to be a beautiful place through his use of long, elegant sentences and many adjectives.
Aside from the literal view of Paradise Lost, figurative language plays a big role in affecting the reader. In Passage A, the reader can see a heavy use of conceit referring to fire. Words such as “fiery,” “flaming” (line 10), “inextinguishable” (line 12), and “combustion” develop this extended metaphor. Also, in line 4, Milton uses onomatopoeia in describing the sound made by the arms clashing on the armour as a braying sound. Lines 5 and 6 use strong imagery to show the horror of war by describing the “madding wheels” and “brazen chariots” raging on in heaven. Milton uses many of the same techniques in Passage B. There, a conceit dealing with plants can be found. Direct references to certain plant life — the rose in line 30, the carnation in line 33, myrtle in line 25, and the “flowery plant” held by the serpent in line 47 — begin the conceit. Also in step with Passage A, Milton uses a figurative imagery in Passage B where he describes the glowing beauty of roses in lines 30-31.
The final elements used by Milton to affect his readers can be classified as poetic devices; the most obvious of these in both passages is hyperbole. In Passage A, Milton builds up war to be a terrible thing. Now, obviously, it is, but Milton’s depictions (as previously described) are a bit over the top. For example, in lines 13-14 he notes that “earth had to her centre shook.” Certainly the earth does not shake during a war, although it may seem as such. This intentional exaggeration is used to draw readers to the belief that war is bad. Milton additionally uses hyperbole in Passage B as a way of making earth and Eve seem much more perfect and beautiful than they really are. Eve is described in lines 43 and 49 as “nymphlike” and “angelic” while the picture of earth is equally as ‘perfect.’ Another common technique shared by both passages is the use of antithesis. Simply put, Passage A shows an atrocious incident happening in what is thought to be the most blissful place in the universe. On the other hand, earth is made out to be a perfect place, while, in actuality, it is not. This antithesis serves to show that war is war and beauty is beauty no matter where they occur.
John Milton uses many techniques to convince his readers that war is evil and beauty is good in the given excerpts from Paradise Lost. Among these are diction, syntax, figurative language, and poetic devices. These various techniques, while used similarly, have two very distinct effects on the reader.