Paradise Lost Sample Essay Outlines
by John Milton

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Sample Essay Outlines

Sample Analytical Paper Topics
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the epic poem as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help you get started.

Topic #1
Throughout the poem, Satan slowly degenerates from a fallen archangel, who still possesses some of the qualities of his former state in Heaven, to a completely depraved creature after the fall of Man. Write an essay tracing Satan’s progressive degeneration that slowly conforms to the evil inside of him, illustrating the idea that spirit and matter are interconnected.

I. Thesis Statement: After his fall, Satan degenerates throughout the poem as he suffers the loss of his former luster, imbrutes himself in the body of a serpent, and finally undergoes a complete metamorphosis as a serpent in Hell.

II. Satan degenerates from his former luster in Heaven.
A. Pride brings him down
1. Satan feels it is “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
2. Satan denies that God created him.
3. Allows no one to go to Earth with him because he wants the glory.
B. Revenge against God
1. He calls a council in Hell and then manipulates the vote.
2. He decides to corrupt God’s newest creation, Man.
C. Ambivalence on Mount Niphates
1. He refuses to repent, though he knows his rebellion against God is unwarranted.
2. He decides to practice falsehood under saintly show.

III. Satan degenerates by imbruting himself in the form of a ¬serpent.
A. Entering the serpent’s body is an act of stealth.
1. He searches for the serpent at midnight so he will not be caught.
2. Darkness and evil surround the intended act against God and Man.
B. Entering the serpent’s body is humiliating.
1. Satan resents the fact that he has descended to a beast.
2. He lives for the glory he will receive from his fallen angels in Hell.
C. Satan tempts Eve in the form of a serpent.
1. He causes the fall of Man.
2. After Eve’s fall the Serpent slinks guiltily back into the thicket.

IV. Satan’s metamorphosis into a Serpent is complete degeneration.
A. The Son curses the Serpent.
1. He must grovel on his belly and stay in the form in which he sinned.
2. The Son prophesies that Christ will someday bruise the evil Serpent’s heel and destroy Sin and Death.
B. God turns Satan’s followers into a race of Serpent’s.

V. Conclusion: Satan’s steady degeneration has led him from a fallen angel whose “original brightness” is still apparent when he addresses his legions in Hell, to a completely depraved creature who is metamorphosed into a Serpent.

Topic #2
Milton’s consciousness of the natural order is based on the hierarchy in the scale of Nature. This hierarchy must never be broken, the lower usurping the position of the higher, or the result will be disastrous. Write an essay analyzing this seventeenth-century idea in relation to some of the major characters in Paradise Lost.

I. Thesis Statement: The hierarchy in the scale of Nature has been broken by Satan, Adam, and Eve in Paradise Lost which has led to disorder and chaos in an otherwise orderly world.

II. Satan has attempted to usurp God’s power.
A. Satan rebels against God in Heaven.
1. He denies that God created him and begins the war in Heaven.
2. He and his followers are driven out of Heaven and into Hell.
B. Satan brings sin into the world.
1. He beguiles Eve to disobey God, convincing her to eat the forbidden fruit.
2. He mocks God when he returns to Hell.

III. Eve has exalted herself above her natural place.
A. Eve suggests that she and Adam divide their labors.
1. Eve enters into a debate with Adam, presenting her own point of view.
2. Eve is hurt by Adam’s inability to trust her alone.
B. Eve decides to go against Adam’s better judgment.
C. Eve disobeys God’s command.
1. Eve allows her reason to be swayed by her passion when she tastes the forbidden fruit.
2. The Serpent flatters Eve, telling her lies against God that she believes.
D. Eve considers withholding her God-like...

(The entire section is 1,236 words.)