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


Paradise Lost

Asked on

9 Answers | Add Yours

kc4u's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #3)

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'.

linda-allen's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

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.


mccattack's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

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.

tikilin's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #5)

is jesus

c---------'s profile pic

Posted on (Answer #6)

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 he has been ascribed the heroic qualities of ambition, leadership,grandure and rebel to conventional laws and rules.

mikegormaly's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #7)

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.

misssbah's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #8)

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.

hbkhbk's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #9)

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.

lhiwetsopradia's profile picture

Posted on (Answer #10)

Satan cannot be called as hero or epic hero.he is just a mere character who lost his dignity in heaven and thrown away to abyss because of his pridehe never repented.a hero requires true transition from his error .satan in paradise lostdoes not have the required personality traits to be called as hero No matter how brilliantly Milton created the character of Satan, the chief demon cannot be the hero of the poem. For Milton, Satan is the enemy who chooses to commit an act that goes against the basic laws of God, that challenges the very nature of the universe. Satan attempts to destroy the hierarchy of Heaven through his rebellion. Satan commits this act not because of the tyranny of God but because he wants what he wants rather than what God wants. Satan is an egoist. His interests always turn on his personal desires. Unlike Adam, who discusses a multiplicity of subjects with Raphael, rarely mentioning his own desires, Satan sees everything in terms of what will happen to him. A true Promethean / Romantic hero has to rebel against an unjust tyranny in an attempt to right a wrong or help someone less fortunate. If Satan had been Prometheus, he would have stolen fire to warm himself, not to help Mankind.


Milton shows his own attitude toward Satan in the way the character degenerates or is degraded in the progression of the poem. Satan is magnificent, even admirable in Books I and II. By book IV, he is changed. In his soliloquy that starts Book IV, Satan declares that Hell is wherever he himself is. Away form his followers and allowed some introspection, Satan already reveals a more conflicted character.


Similarly, Satan's motives change as the story advances. At first, Satan wishes to continue the fight for freedom from God. Later his motive for continuing the fight becomes glory and renown. Next, the temptation of Adam and Eve is simply a way to disrupt God's plans. And, at the end, Satan seems to say that he has acted as he has to impress the other demons in Hell. This regression of motives shows quite a fall.


Satan also regresses or degenerates physically. Satan shifts shapes throughout the poem. These changes visually represent the degeneration of his character. First, he takes the form of a lesser angel, a cherub, when he speaks to Uriel. Next, he is a ravening cormorant in the tree of life — an animal but able to fly. Then he is a lion and a tiger — earth-bound beasts of prey, but magnificent. Finally, he is a toad and a snake. He becomes reptilian and disgusting. These shape changes graphically reveal how Satan's actions change him.


Even in his own shape, Satan degenerates. When Gabriel confronts Satan in Book V, none of the angels initially recognize Satan because his appearance is noticeably changed. Likewise, in Book X, when Satan once again sits on his throne in Hell, none of the earlier magnificence of his physical appearance is left. Now he looks like a drunken debauchee.


Though Satan is not heroic in Paradise Lost, he at times does border on tragedy. Ironically, he also borders on comedy. The comic element associated with Satan derives from the absurdity of his position. As a rebel, he challenges an omnipotent foe, God, with power that is granted him by his foe. God simply toys with Satan in battle. Satan is, in fact, cartoonish when he and Belial gloat over the success of their infernal cannon in Book VI. Satan and Belial stand laughing at the disorder they have caused, but they are unaware of the mountains and boulders just about to land on their heads.


If all of Paradise Lost were on the level of the battle scene, the poem would be comic. But Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve moves the demon closer to tragedy. Satan's motives in destroying the human couple may be arguable, but the effect and its implications are not. Satan brings the humans down and causes their removal from Eden. In so doing, he also provides the way to salvation for those humans who choose freely to obey God. However, Satan provides nothing for himself. Hell is where Satan is because he has no way to rejoin God. Unlike humanity, Satan and the other fallen angels have already sealed their fates. They live always with the knowledge of Hell.

We’ve answered 288,505 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question