Essay on Hero of Paradise Lost
Immense critical discourses have centered on the issue regarding the true hero of Paradise Lost. The intricacy of this issue is portrayed in the numerous diverse perceptions held by discordant individuals. Most of the sentiments by scholars and readers point toward Satan as the true hero of Paradise Lost. For instance, renowned critic Thomas Arnold attested that is seems true from the many opinions of readers that the prominent character and hero in Paradise Lost is Satan. This can be attributed to the fact that the first three books focus their attention on Satan’s proceedings. Even after the characters of Adam and Eve are introduced in the fourth book, Satan still takes center stage in the narrations in the active form, with other characters being subjects of the plot. Moreover, since Satan adheres to the precepts of epic poetry elaborated by Homer and Virgil among others and is a charismatic character, he is contemplated by many critics as the hero. However, despite his initial heroic introduction to readers, Satan cannot be the hero of the poem; instead, Adam is the hero of Paradise Lost.Essay on Hero of Paradise Lost
There are various arguments that espouse the notion of Satan as the hero of Paradise Lost. In the first two books by John Milton, Satan is presented as a heroic and magnificent figure. He is not only endowed with remarkable qualities of heart and head that render him an epic character but is also noble, enterprising and oozes with bold and perilous leadership skills. As such, Satan is the uncompromising champion of liberty against the regulations and restrictions set by a tyrant God. This is best portrayed in the concept of “To bow and sue for His grace” which Satan spurns even after he is defeated (Milton, 2008). It is such ingenuity and qualities elaborated so eloquently by Milton that have led critics to reckon that Satan is the hero in Paradise Lost despite his quite vivid vices. In addition, the conventional concept of the epic hero as a great leader and warrior with supernatural abilities affirms the candidacy of Satan as the ideal hero in Paradise Lost. However, there are other contemplations which deem this theory inadmissible.Essay on Hero of Paradise Lost
Undeniably, Satan appeals to human feelings as a tremendous character surmounting different tragedies. Notwithstanding, his innate wickedness and ultimate damnation is also undoubted. Satan undergoes immense transformation or change in the poem, but his transformation is a continuous degradation or diminution. This argument is evident in the first two books where Satan is initially presented as a heroic figure given that he is an Archangel and leader of his colleagues. Satan’s power, character, evil capacity are exalted so as to set the stage for the imminent conflict with the aim of provoking feelings of fear among readers, human sympathy with regard to Satan’s first parent, as well as, gratitude for his redemption. However, after the first two books, his degradation is quite vivid and dire. For instance, he is not only stirred by the spear of Ithuriel but also takes the form of a toad when whispering in Eve’s ear. Thus, most critics who are of the opinion that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost mostly base their assertions on the first two books.
When Paradise Lost is read in its entirety, it is impossible to escape from the conclusion or notion that Satan is not the hero of the poem. Arriving at the conclusion that Satan is the hero after reading Paradise Lost in its entirety is not only absurd and defeats the title of the poem but is also representative of inconsequential paradox given that such an argument stultifies the intention of the poet. Moreover, heroism should be evident in an individual’s actions which seem to lacking in the character of Satan with the majority of his heroic grandeur taking the form of speeches. Aristotle describes a hero as an individual who is godlike, superhuman and divine, but also human. With all his superhuman abilities, Satan is nothing but human. In addition, he lacks virtue and since Milton was a Puritan, it can be asserted that the evil schemes of Satan to overcome tragedies in his rebellion to God’s authority are not deserving of the epithet hero even though Milton does not necessarily denote that heroism in Paradise Lost should be determined under a pious microscopic eye.
A second perception of heroism in Paradise Lost is that which leans towards the character of Adam as the true hero. Based on the plot of the poem, it is the “fall of man” that is the pivot of the plot rather than the “fall of Satan.” Despite the fact that Adam is only human and lacks supernatural abilities, the human nature of heroes and heroines is a critical feature of heroism that cannot be shunned by authors, readers and critics. Thus, even though Adam’s character is passive in the tale, his presence, that is, from the beginning “Of man’s first disobedience” to the end and his actions in the whole story are determinant of the decisions taken by characters such as God, the Messiah (God’s son) and Satan and how they are perceived by readers (Milton, 2008). In the culmination of Paradise Lost, Satan degradation ensues while Adam and Eve are purified “A Paradise within thee, happier far” (Milton, 2008). Thus, in as much as the attention of the poet is engrossed significantly on Satan in the first two books, the rest of the books on Paradise Lost effectively alienate people’s sympathy from Satan and directs it towards Adam as the true hero.Essay on Hero of Paradise Lost
The selfless nature of Christ and his dedication to the redemption of man cannot be shunned in quest for a true hero in Paradise Lost. Given that Paradise Lost is an epic about the fall of man and his redemption, Christ played a critical role in man’s redemption and should be considered as the true hero of Paradise Lost as certain critics claim. However, heroism is not confined to supernatural abilities, charisma and physical prowess. Heroism is contingent largely on the choices offered to an individual and how he or she exercises his or her choice. In as much as some choices may be mistakes, that is, hamartia, these mistakes must be followed by the acknowledgment of error in judgment by the hero, that is, anagnorisis. When it comes to Satan, he made a mistake when he was offered a choice. However, his mistake was not followed by any acknowledgment of wrongdoing or remorse. Instead, Satan basked in the glory of his deception and found solace in his quest to assume control of all existence by rebellion. On the other hand, Christ in not in any conflict since He is viewed as the moral pedestal. Thus, based on Christ’s inability to contradict or question himself, He cannot be contemplated as the true hero of Paradise Lost. Thus, Adam is left as the ideal hero.
Adam faces conflict and when he is offered a choice, he makes a mistake. Nonetheless, Adam’s transgression is not for his benefit or glory as is the case for Satan, but is an act of assuming joint responsibility or sharing responsibility with his partner for the transgression. When Adam realizes that he has made a mistake, he initially tries to blame Eve for his transgression, but later takes responsibility for his choice or action. This is the human nature of a hero that renders Adam a true hero of Paradise Lost. Moreover, Adam’s negotiation with two impulses, eventual acknowledgment of his wrongdoing and surmounting of obstacles after his banishment by God makes him a true hero.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Floating Press, 2008.