21 Dec 2018

MA English Part.1,The Hero of Paradise Lost | Paradise Lost by John Milton

The Hero of Paradise Lost

1.Compare and contrast Milton s' Presentation of Adam and Satan in Paradise Lost
2.Who is in your opinion is the real hero of Paradise Lost?Give reasons for your answer.
3.How does Milton differentiate between true and false heroism in Paradise Lost? Refer to Book.1 and Book.IX for your answer.
4.Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost.Do you agree?

It is a controversial topic that who is the hero of Paradise Lost.There are two major schools of thoughts:one is of the view that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost,while other school of thought says that Adam is the hero of Paradise Lost.Some critics say that God is the hero of Paradise Lost.A French critic,Denis Saurat, puts forward the strange thesis that Milton himself is the hero of Paradise Lost.

Satan as a Hero of Paradise Lost

Milton has projected a powerful character of Satan in this classical epic Paradise Lost.Satan is a powerful demagogue of Paradise Lost book-1.He likes a political leader instill a new spirit into the fallen ,vanquished and stupefied angels.He is a good orator.His words of speeches kindle the lost courage of the fallen angels.Like a military commander ,he rearrange the defeated army and makes them train and ready to fight an eternal war.He shows the highest degree of fortitude and "courage never to submit or yield."Satan s' character is a character of resolution and determination.
        ".....and thou,profoundest Hell
        Receive thy new possessor,one who brings
        A mind not to be changed by place or time
        The mind has its own place,and in itself
         Can make a Heaven of Hell,a Hell of Heaven."

He is a power hungry leader who always wants to rule.He wants to get supreme power.His leadership qualities devise a new way of ruling,even to rule in Hell.

  "To reign is worth ambition though in Hell"

  Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven."

A Great Figure of Epic Dimension:

Milton has endowed Satan with all those qualities which make a hero.It is the grandeur of Satan character which makes Paradise Lost an epic.Milton has imparted something of himself to Satan,and so Satan arouses our admiration by the strength of his character and individuality.He assets himself against the autocracy of God and is able to win over to his side the third part of the angelic host in Heaven.He is no doubt defeated by Messiah(the Christ) but his defeat and expulsion from Heaven cannot curb his indomitable spirit.

Robert Burns strongly upheld Satan as the hero of Paradise Lost in these words:  "Give me a spirit like my favourite hero,Milton s' Satan"

W. Hazlitt was of the view, "The interest of the poem arises from the daring ambition and fierce passions of Satan,and from the account of the paradisaical happiness and the loss of it by our first parents,Satan is the indubitable hero-in fact,the most heroic subject that ever was chosen for a poem."

Arguments against Satan being the hero of the poem:

No doubt that Satan is projected as a powerful character in Paradise Lost Book-1,but as the poem progresses,Satan loses his charm as a hero.As the poem proceeds,this heroic figure gradually loses its splendor,though he retains,his original greatness even when he comes to the Earth and sees the joy,but pride prevails over him,for he must have his revenge on God who is his eternal enemy.

   "Ah gentle pair,ye little think how nigh

   Your change approaches,when all these delights
    Will vanish,and deliver ye to woe-"

From now onwards,the decline of Satan starts.When he enters into the Heaven in the guise of a sepent to tempt Eve,he has turned from a great hero into a detestable spy and cunning trickster.So when we take the whole of Paradise Lost into consideration,we cannot agree with the view that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost. 

Milton: The hero of Paradise Lost:

It seems that  Milton Projects himself in the character of Satan.When we read the very first page of Paradise Lost Book.1,we find Milton telling that he is going "to justify the ways of God to Men".But in the poem he projects Satan as the hero of the poem.He writes more for Satan and less for God.It seems that Milton is in the devil party.He shows his all qualities as a poet when he writes the speeches of Satan. A famous critic,Denis Saurat says that Milton is the hero of Paradise Lost.Further Saurat feels that Milton has exalted Satan because he himself wanted to drive out malignant and militant Satan in him and wanted to drive him out

This logic is not reasonable that Milton himself is the hero of aradise Lost.No doubt that Milton s' personality is revealed in Paradise lost and he never conceals where his sympathy lies.There is again some similarity between the position of Satan and that of Milton.Satan had defied the authority of God the autocrat,just as Milton had defied the autocracy of the king.Hence Satan is endowed with all the force and fire to Milton s' own spirit.But Milton s' object was to justify the ways of God to men.

Adam:the hero of Paradise Lost:

To put froward the claim either of God or of the Messiah(Christ) is absurd,for they do not take part in the central action of Paradise Lost.However ,the whole epic turns round what Milton indicates even in the first line of the poem 'Man s' first disobedience' Adam disobeyed God and by this act of disobedience, he not only lost Paradise but brought the fall of the whole human race.No action can be more tremendous in its import and significance than that which brought the fall of the whole humanity.And Adam,being responsible for it,is obviously meant by the poet to fill the role of the hero of the great poem.

This point again becomes controversial  as Adam does not act.He is only a passive figure who is acted upon by others.But it is his fate that engages the attention of God and the Angels in Heaven,and of Satan and the devils in the Hell.His fate again causes a terrible upheaval on the Earth.When Eve plucks the fruit, "Nature sighs that all is lost."Adam may not be a heroic figure in the same sense as Achilles is.But Paradise lost is a different kind of epic from Homer Iliad.Milton himself says,

   ".....yet argument

     Not less but more heroic than the worth of stern Achilles."

Adam s' role is not that of a warrior but that of a god-fearing man,faced with a temptation and defeated in the conflict between himself and Satan.In studying the question of hero of Paradise Lost,we need not be obsessed with the classical conception of the epic here.Adam is defeated no doubt but through the Messiah(the Christ) he regains the Paradise 'happier far'.Thus the ultimate victory which is of spiritual nature goes to Adam.Adam is the real hero of Paradise Lost.


"One supposed defect in the story of Paradise Lost has been frequently dwelt on,and the fact is that Satan,and not Adam,is the hero of this epic.We think that only those,who reading of Milton has been confined to the first two books,can be misled by this nonsensical paradox.
In the first two books Satan is naturally made a heroic figure;he is still an Arch-angel(though fallen)one of the chief Arch-angels and king over his fellows." His character has power. His capacity of evil must be exalted in order to show the epic greatness of the coming conflict and in order to arouse the reader s' fears for himself,human sympathy with his first parents and gratitude for his redemption.But we have not to wait for Paradise regained to see the steady deterioration in Satan s' character. Surely, to take one instance alone there is little of the heroic in Satan when he takes the form of a toad to whisper in Eve s' ear and is stirred up by the spear of Ethereal.At the close of the poem Satan degradation is complete." (Wyatt and Low)

"Satan is,of course,a character in an epic,but he is in no sense the hero of the epic as a whole;he is only a figure of heroic magnitude and heroic energy,and he is developed by Milton with dramatic emphasis and dramatic intensity." Helen Grander.

Although Adam is passive and not an active agent in  the poem and although he suffers more than he acts,his claim to the title of the hero seems to be better than anybody else s'. As lander points out,and as everybody at once notices,Adam is the central figure in  the poem,round whom the other acts.It is his fall that is the subject matter of the poem.Our interest centers round him;our sympathy goes to him.He may reasonably called the hero of the Paradise Lost.Adam does not have a romantic character and obvious bravery of a noble; he is every man as he recognizes his own weakness: accepts his responsibility,and faces life with true courage.His battles are within him,as is fitting for the hero of a great religious epic.

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