The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. - John Milton, "Paradise Lost"

In the above quotation, how should I understand the 'make a heaven of hell'? Is it 'make A of B', 'make A (out) of B', or 'of hell' is used as adjective or something? Grammatically, it is not clear to me how to interpret the structure of the sentence.

And can I take the subject of 'can' as 'the mind' and is omitted?



The subject of the sentence is the mind.

Heaven and hell are all nouns and the they are complements of the preposition "of" when they are used after it.

To make A (out) of B means turn (or change) B into (to) A. In other words, your example sentence could be rephrased to:

The mind is its own place, and in itself can turn (change) a hell into (to) heaven, a heaven into (to) hell.

You can visit the link on make of to understand more about how the verb to "make" works with the preposition "of".

As the comment by @nnnnnn suggests, it doesn't necessarily mean to permanently change one to the other. The sentence means:

It depends on your mind how to understand the situation you are in and turn it into a positive (heaven) or negative (hell) situation.

  • 2
    Further to this answer, "make a heaven of hell" doesn't mean to permanently change hell into heaven for all people who are in hell. It's more that hell can seem like heaven within the mind of an individual. – nnnnnn May 18 '16 at 3:43
  • @nnnnnn Good point. I think that's how the meaning of to understand was derived from to make. – user24743 May 18 '16 at 4:14

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