Paradise Lost Questions and Answers
by John Milton

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What is the theme of Paradise Lost?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The theme of Paradise Lost is "to justify the ways of God to man." This epic poem shows that God is firmly in control of the universe and, from the start, has a plan that will culminate in good triumphing and evil being punished.

The Christian God is thus the central character in this drama, which borrows heavily from classical as well as Christian sources. God has a lively antagonist in Satan and his fallen angels, but especially in Satan himself, the proud and malevolent creature of dark grandeur who goes one-on-one against God in the epic struggle for the soul of God's crowning creation, humankind.

A central secondary theme in this epic struggle for the human soul is that humans have free will. What gives this story its suspense—its "juice"—is that humankind could go either way in the story of the fall. Adam and Eve freely choose to fall into Satan's hands by trying to set themselves up as equals to God. They freely eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We are left with a moment in which it seems God has been utterly defeated.

But the overarching theme is that whatever happens, God will turn evil into good. Evil cannot triumph over good, no matter how possible that seems on a limited basis. (Milton, we remember, was writing in the still uncertain aftermath of the very turbulent period of English Civil War in which many Puritans like himself might have seen the restoration of the monarchy--and the threat of Papism it brought-- as the ultimate triumph of evil). Yet while the world may seem in a dark place hurtling towards evil in whatever moment we happen to be living, that is an illusion. We can be reassured after reading this epic that the trajectory of the universe is inevitably towards redemption and paradise. God will never allow evil to win.

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kimfuji eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Milton's Paradise Lost he is writing his own Genesis story. He is describing th fall of man or humankind and the fall of the devil or Lucifer (and his angels). In the poem it shows the rebel angels revolting and then how they are thrust into hell. It shows the creation of the world, along with Adam and Eve and their inability to listen to and obey god's one request. Of course they were also thrust out of the garden of Eden.

I guess you could call the theme: the genesis story or seeking justice because Milton is explaining why the humans or mankind was banished.

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