Paradise Regained Themes
It can be argued that there are two core themes to Milton's poem Paradise Regained. The first is that of reversal, negation, and undoing of fate. The title of the work itself modifies that of its prequel, Paradise Lost, by introducing a negation. Within the text, Milton often juxtaposes antonymic words in his syntax that repeatedly cancel each other out, suggesting that the work itself serves to restore humanity's spiritual ambition or hope that was originally "lost."
The second theme is that of hunger. Milton repeats references to both bodily and spiritual hunger by tracking Jesus's meanderings through the desert for forty days and nights as he looked for bodily sustenance and religious restoration. Satan focuses on hunger in the literal sense by constantly trying to entice the fallible human version of Christ with food. Ultimately, Jesus refuses Satan's temptations and is able to end his own spiritual hunger.
The seventeenth century English poet John Milton wrote two great epic poems: Paradise Lost, in which he depicted Adam’s fall into Original Sin, and its sequel, Paradise Regained, which celebrates humankind’s redemption through Jesus, often called the second Adam. Milton was both a Puritan, whose stern Christianity demanded a radical break with worldly values, and a Christian humanist, eager to place ancient Greek and Roman culture in the service of Christianity. While these two positions could be in tension, Milton reconciled them by retelling the Gospel narrative as a classical epic on a par with Homer’s Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1611) and Vergil’s Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553). However, where classical epics portrayed great heroes defeating enemies in physical combat, Milton makes Jesus a hero like Job in the Old Testament: one who suffers but maintains his faith in God. Through the analogy between the heroes of classical, pagan epics and the Jesus of his Christian epic, Milton created a new epic hero: one whose domain was elevated, as it deserved to be, over all epic heroes of all time.
Jesus’ example as an epic hero thus counterpoints and trumps those of his mythic predecessors. At the same time, his tribulations humanize him and his response to Satan’s temptations exemplify the potential in all human beings to choose a Christ-like way of behaving in a world full of temptation. Milton brilliantly interweaves his theme of conflict and struggle with that of identity. Thus Paradise Regained reveals Jesus as the Son of God through the means of rejected temptations. For example, Jesus forgoes physical combat in favor of spiritual warfare, eloquence in favor of self-knowledge, and control of others in favor of self-control. Each of...
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