Essay Topics For Paradise Lost

Book 1
1. Satan is often seen as an attractive character in Paradise Lost. In what way could he be perceived as attractive? Discuss Milton’s involvement with the character of Satan. Does he identify with Satan? What statement is Milton making about the fallen archangel? Cite examples from the poem to support your answer.

2. Milton declares that his poem will pursue “Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.” Discuss these words in light of the subject matter of the poem. Why did Milton consider his poem superior to those of Homer and Virgil? Discuss the superiority of his subject matter. Use examples from the poem to support your ideas.

Book 2
1. Commentators have compared the debate in the devilish council to sessions of the Council of State in Milton’s day. In what way do Moloch, Belial, Mammon, and Beelzebub portray human characteristics? Compare and contrast their points of view. Do they all have one common goal? Support your answer with examples from the poem.

2. Satan volunteers to go on a journey that entails innumerable hazards. What can he hope to gain from this supposed act of self-sacrifice? How is this act typical of his character? Why does he choose to go alone? Why would another volunteer spoil his plan? Give examples from the poem to support your view.

Book 3
1. The poet begins Book III with an invocation to “holy Light.” In what way is God symbolic of light? How is light the very essence of God? Was light created by God? Has it existed from the beginning? In what way is the “holy Light” symbolically significant to the Son? To the angels? To Man? Cite examples from the poem to support your views.

2. The Son offers to go down to Earth to die for Man’s sin. Compare and contrast this with the call for volunteers in the infernal consultation in Hell. How do Satan and the Son compare as volunteers in a dangerous mission? Contrast their motives. What do each of them hope to gain? Do each of them offer hope? Support your argument with examples from the poem.

Book 4
1. Milton first intended to use Satan’s soliloquy in a dramatic presentation of Paradise Lost. Discuss the dramatic characterization in Satan’s speech. In what ways do his words characterize Satan? What do we learn about Satan that we have not known thus far in the poem? Does his speech elicit our sympathy? Does it turn us against him? Cite examples from the poem to explain your answer.

2. God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Explain the symbolism inherent in God’s prohibition. What would happen if they ate the fruit? How would it make them “Equal with Gods”? Give examples from the poem to support your argument.

Book 5
1. Eve’s dream can be seen as a foreshadowing of the fate of mankind. Compare her dream to the temptation and fall in Book IX. What is the symbolism in her temptation to become a goddess. In what way is her flight through the air symbolic of her exalted state of mind after she indulges in the forbidden act? How does she feel about her act of sin when she is awakened by Adam? How does Adam comfort her? Cite examples from the poem to support your argument.

2. Abdiel could be considered a prototype for those who stand alone in their beliefs in the face of a hostile crowd. Compare Abdiel to a person you know in public life. In what way are people like Abdiel an asset to society? Why does no one stand...

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Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on “Paradise Lost” by John Milton that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Paradise Lost” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Paradise Lost” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Paradise Lost” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Who is the Hero in “Paradise Lost" by John Milton

One of the most written about topics in response to this more than 300 year old epic is about defending a position as to who is the hero in Paradise Lost. Despite the volumes written in an attempt to answer this question, scholars studying “Paradise Lost" remain in debate about the subject. Who would you name as the hero of this tale, and why? Be sure to demonstrate your understanding of what a hero is, and in defending your choice, cite the characteristics and actions that qualify someone as a heroic figure. Also, keep in mind that throughout “Paradise Lost" Satan and God are not your only options for heroes. For a detailed open-access article on this topic, check out “Satan as an Epic Hero in Paradise Lost”

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Reader’s Moral Dilemma with “Paradise Lost"

In a certain sense, Paradise Lost was not an original tale, given that it recapitulates some of the best-known biblical tales, namely the conflict between God and the Devil and the temptation in the Garden of Eden. What has allowed Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost" to endure as long as it has, however, is the fact that his approach was incredibly creative…and controversial. At points, the reader of “Paradise Lost" may find himself or herself sympathizing with the Devil, pitying him, and even rooting for him. God in Paradise Lost is not always, or even most of the time, a nice guy. The reader is thus entrapped in a moral dilemma: How can one like the Devil? How is this moral incongruency resolved? Write about your feelings about the Devil as he is portrayed in “Paradise Lost"—you could also explore your feelings about God—and explain how you resolve the moral dilemma in which Milton involves the reader.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #3: Understanding Adam and Eve in “Paradise Lost"

Understandably, a great deal of critical and scholarly attention has been devoted to deconstructing Milton’s versions of the biblical characters Adam and Eve in “Paradise Lost". What might you add to that discussion? Is Eve vain, as she has been accused? Why is the character of Adam in “Paradise Lost” so child-like in his desire to understand how the world works? Does the way in which they are rendered by Milton in “Paradise Lost" offer a new reading of the biblical Adam and Eve? Support your argument with specific textual references. For a full character analysis of Adam in Paradise Lost, check out the article A Critical Reading of Adam's Fall in “Paradise Lost” by John Milton

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: “Fit Audience Find, or Few"

Milton wrote that Paradise Lost would “fit audience find, though few" (l. 31). What might he have meant by this? What are the characteristics of a “fit" audience for Paradise Lost? What might have made Milton concerned that the epic would not find a wide readership? How else does Milton address and engage the reader throughout the text?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: Milton’s Goal With “Paradise Lost": Mission Accomplished?

Milton’s intent, expressed clearly in the epic poem’s opening lines, was to “justify the ways of God to men" (Book I, l. 26). What are the ways of God that Milton wished to justify? Did he succeed? Why or why not? Be sure to rely upon evidence that you find in the text to support your argument.

For further reading, the following sources will provide an excellent starting point : A Critical Reading of Adam's Fall in “Paradise Lost” by John MiltonThe Forbidden Quest for Knowledge in Doctor Faustus and Paradise LostCharacter Analysis of Satan in Paradise Lost Against Similar Literary CharactersParadise Lost by Milton : Is Satan as an Epic Hero?

This list of important quotations from “Paradise Lost” by John Milton will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Paradise Lost” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs in “Paradice Lost” other than those already mentioned.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself/Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven./What matter where, if I still be the same…." (Book I, ll. 254-256)

“Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." (Book I, l. 263)

“Towards him they bend/With awful reverence prone; and…/Extol him equal to the highest in heaven." (Book II, ll. 477-479)

“That for the general safety he despised/His own: for neither do the spirits damned/Lose all their virtue." (Book II, ll. 481-483)

“[I]s there no place/Left for repentance, none for pardon left?" (Book IV, ll. 79-80)

“So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,/Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost." (Book IV, ll. 108-109)

“What thanks sufficient, or what recompense/Equal have I to render thee…/who thus largely hast allayed/The thirst I had of knowledge…/something yet of doubt remains." (Book VIII, ll. 5-8)

“Thus Eve with countenance blithe her story told;/But in her cheek distemper flushing glowed./On the other side, Adam, soon as he heard/The fatal trespass done by Eve, amazed/Astonied stood and blank, while horror chill/Ran through his veins and all his joints relaxed…." (Book IX, ll. 886-891).

“Nor can I think that God, creator wise,/Though threatening, will in earnest so destroy/Us his prime creatures, dignified so high,/Set overall all his works, which in our fall,/For us created, needs with us must fail,/Dependent made; so God shall uncreate,/Be frustrate, do, undo, and labor lose…." (Book IX, ll. 938-944)

“Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best,/ And love with fear the only God, to walk/As in presence, ever to observe/ His providence, and on him sole depend, /Merciful over all his works, with good/Still overcoming evil…." (Book XII, ll. 561-566)

Reference: Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004


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