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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 knowledge from Adam in order to “render her more equal” or even superior to Adam.

IV. Adam has allowed himself to be held in subjection to Eve.
A. Adam’s passion for Eve sways his judgment.
1. Adam perceives her as the wisest and best of creation.
2. Raphael forewarns Adam about exalting Eve above her natural place.
B. Adam allows Eve to go out alone in spite of his fears for her safety.
C. Adam accepts the forbidden fruit from Eve.
1. He cannot face living alone in the forest again without Eve.
2. The Son rebukes Adam for letting Eve act as his God.

V. Conclusion: In a world where Satan claims equality with God; Eve boldly chooses to work separately from Adam; and Adam cannot face living without Eve, disaster is a natural result because the hierarchy of Nature has been broken.

Topic #3

Throughout his development, Adam has evolved from a happy stage of innocence before the fall to an acceptance of God’s justice in a sinful world. Write an essay tracing Adam’s process of development as he learns to reconcile himself with his mortal existence after the fall.


I. Thesis Statement: Adam evolves from a stage of innocence before the fall to his sin and consequent repentance and reconciliation with God, and finally to his acceptance of God’s justice in an imperfect world.

II. Adam is innocent in the beginning of Paradise Lost.
A. He is devoted to God.
1. He offers prayers of praise and adoration morning and evening.
2. He obeys God’s commands.
B. He possesses an inordinate passion for Eve.
1. Adam becomes weak in her presence.
2. Eve seems the most wise and virtuous being in Paradise.

III. Adam then moves into a sinful stage.
A. Adam experiences a period of despair and hopelessness.
1. He first mourns the loss of his idyllic Paradise.
2. He then blames Eve for leading him into sin.
B. Adam reconciles with Eve.
1. Eve takes all the blame.
2. Adam forgives Eve, suggesting they stop blaming each other.

IV. Adam repents and reconciles with God.
A. Adam decides that he wants to live and propagate the race.
1. The Serpent’s head will be bruised by his offspring as God had promised.
2. They will avenge Satan’s sinful deed.
B. Adam falls prostrate before God, asking his forgiveness.
1. Adam is told by Michael that God has heard their prayers and forgiven them.
2. Michael tells them that they must leave the garden.

V. Adam accepts God’s justice in a sinful world.
A. Visions of the future help Adam continue living.
1. Adam gains a perspective on the consequences of his fall.
2. The meaning of Death is clarified by examples of Death and war.
B. Michael narrates the story of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.
1. Adam now understands how Christ’s resurrection will crush the Serpent’s head by destroying Sin and Death.
2. Adam understands his part in the lineage of Christ.

VI. Conclusion: Adam evolves from innocence to sin and repentance. Eve’s selfless concern while he is in the depths of despair, and Michael’s subsequent education of Adam are an integral part of the process that leads him to an acceptance of the justice of God by the end of the epic.

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