Homework Help

In Paradise Lost, is the epic hero Satan or Adam?

user profile pic

jorican21 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 1, 2008 at 7:06 AM via web

dislike 4 like

In Paradise Lost, is the epic hero Satan or Adam?

8 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 2, 2008 at 12:41 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

The hero of a piece of literature is usually the protagonist, or main character. If that were the case with "Paradise Lost," then we'd have to say that Satan is the hero because he is the protagonist. However, he does not behave in the way a classical hero should. Satan, in this epic, is what we call an "antihero." That is, he is in the typical hero role, but he has none of the typical heroic qualities. The Columbia Encyclopedia describes the antihero as the

principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero's lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man's ambivalence toward traditional moral and social virtues.

 

user profile pic

mccattack | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:39 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

Some would argue that Satan could be viewed as the epic hero in Paradise Lost. This is because most people can identify with him- he's a sinner, just like human beings. His biggest sin is Pride, which could be viewed as his "tragic flaw", a characteristic of epic heroes. In addition, the story goes into more detail about Satan than the character who John Milton actually intended to be the epic hero- the Son of God.

user profile pic

kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted October 1, 2009 at 10:10 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

The 'lost Archangel' in Milton's epic Paradise Lost may appear to possess certain heroic qualities like leadership, initiative & fortitude, especially in the first two books; but in the overall perspective of Milton's poem in twelve books, it is Adam rather than Satan who should be called the hero. A creature, blindly governed by 'pride', 'ambition', 'jealousy', 'hatred', 'malice' and so on, can not be reckoned as the hero of a work, the purpose of which was 'to justify the ways of God to men'. Satan is God's 'arch-enemy' who tempted Eve, the mother of mankind, to initiate the Fall of Man through transgression/ disobedience of God's will. He made it clear that doing anything good should never be his task, but to do ill would be his 'sole delight'.

Like the sea-monster, Leviathan, deluding the sailors, Satan also deceived the angels in Heaven with the temptation of a shelter in waging a regicide, 'an impious war' against God. Defeated and doomed to suffer in 'bottomless perdition' in Hell, Satan still conspired to erupt in the Garden of Eden and allure the parents of mankind to their fall from the state of perfect happiness.

Satan is a liar & conspirator, a creature unduly seeking equality with the Creator, suffering from 'a sense of injured merit', and through the twelve books of Milton's poem he shows a steady degeneration from the brightest of all angels to the 'infernal serpent', from one 'born of light'[Lucifer] to an eavesdropper, a fallen, unsalvaged embodiment of Evil.

Such a creature can hardly be the hero; the hero or the protagonist may have committed an error, but viciousness and criminality can never be the characteristics of a hero. Adam, the father of mankind, a pre-figuration of the 'second Adam' i.e. Christ, is the true hero of Paradise Lost. It would be unwise to restrict our reading and assessment of Satan to Books 1 & 2 of Milton's poem only. Milton surely didn't belong to 'the devil's party'.

user profile pic

tikilin | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 1, 2011 at 4:14 AM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

is jesus

user profile pic

c--------- | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted July 4, 2011 at 11:39 PM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

the beginng of the 1st book and the Milton's description of satan is inn the favour of satan to be called as the hero of the epic.as he has been ascribed the heroic qualities of ambition, leadership,grandure and rebel to conventional laws and rules.

user profile pic

mikegormaly | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 6, 2011 at 7:32 AM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

He is the hero of the Paradise Lost in the same way Macbeth is the hero of Shakespeare's play, a tragic hero, and a tragic hero by definition begins of high rank, with a noble character and falls from glory because of a character flaw which is most often pride.

user profile pic

misssbah | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 10, 2012 at 9:54 PM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

Well,it could be both because both of them lost their high stature.First Adam, a man who had disobeyed God's command and in result he mislayed his luxurious life in heaven,in order to stay with eve in the awful life on earth as a punishment.Then comes satan,who also disobeyed god's order and was thrown in hell.Both had the tragedy in their life or we can also take them as a tragic heroes because they had high degrees,honourable and  fatal flaw.All these qualities lies in tragic hero,but the best answer would be satan.

user profile pic

hbkhbk | Student, Graduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 1, 2015 at 2:47 PM (Answer #9)

dislike 0 like

Different critics have different views on the hero of “PARADISE LOST”. Majority of the critics stand with Satan as the hero of “Paradise Lost”. Others say for Adam. One suggests God and another Christ. According to a French critic, Milton himself is the hero of Paradise Lost.

First of all, we discuss Satan. He is very bold and brave warrior. He is much particular about his freedom and dignity. He has the power of recovery even in the face of defeat. He has an examplary will power, unsurpassable determination, unshakable confidence and unbelievable courage. He says,

What though the field be lost?                                                                                                                               All is not lost-the unconquerale will                                                                                                          And study of revenge, immoral hate                                                                                                         And courage never to submit or yield”

His physical stature is also worth seeing. His dimension and his instruments of battle are massive. He looks like a tower when he reviews his army. His powerful speech to the fallen angels is a sole proof of his dynamic leadership.

But inspite of all this, Satan does not produce an impression of true heroism. From the moral point of view, Satan is compounded of abdurate pride, sensual indulgence, intense selfishness and alcohlic egotism. He prefers to reign in hell rather than serve in heaven. He rebells against God and a rebbel to God has neither grace nor dignity. He is full of wile. He has only nagative ideals. His only purpose is to cause pain to God. These are not heroic qualities

Owing to two things, Adam cannot be said the hero. First, he does not fight with Satan as the epic heros do. He is justa passive figure who acts upon others. He is the victim of Satan’s guile.

God and Christ cannot commit any fault as the epic heros do and they cannot be compared any-one. That is why, God or Christ is not the hero of Paradise Lost.

Milton is not found in the action of the poem therefore he is not hero too.

The question who is the hero of Paradise Lost is irrelevent. But Paradise Lost is an epic. As Fielding says,

 “If a work of literature has all the caracteristics of a genre except one, it can be lablled with the genre”.

 That is why, Paradise Lost can be called an epic though it has not any hero.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes