In the movie Prometheus, David 8 quotes a passage from "Paradise Lost" said by Lucifer. He tells Walter,

Serve in Heaven or reign in Hell.

One of the crew mate even insinuates he's the devil:

David, I met the devil when I was a child and I've never forgotten him.

So in the film Prometheus we see that David symbolizes evil, or the devil Lucifer.

I believe that this device is also used in novels, correct me if I am wrong.

What is this device of using quotes from books to tell the readers or viewers that a certain character represent or symbolize someone?


1 Answer 1


It is often misquoted. It is more about pride and courage, not evil.

The mind is its own place and in it self

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

What matter where, if I be still the same,

And what should I be, all but less than hee

Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least

We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built

Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:

Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.

It is also a fantastic pep talk.

Interpreting the line of Milton as a label of evil might be overthinking it just a bit. In the early scenes of the film, David is simply obeying his programming. He serves a purpose not his own.

I have my characters recite Milton often and it is never intended as a signal to the reader that they are evil. It is intended as a sign they are well-read. I am not about to delete that - if someone decides that they must be tagged evil because they know Paradise Lost, so be it.

Using small sections of other texts is intertextuality. Turning characters into symbols of other characters certainly is done - references to Job or such - but a character should stand on his own without relying on the symbolic shadow in which he stands.

  • 1
    Is intertextuality used as a symbolic device, or is it just a device used to make simple non-figurative associations?
    – Sayaman
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 13:18

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