Adam as the Hero of Paradise Lost - Essay Example

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Milton revisited the Garden of Eden and retold the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the ingenuity of a literary canon that has given a new impetus to the controversy about who should be the actual hero:…
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Adam as the Hero of Paradise Lost
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Paradise Lost is hailed as one of the greatest epic poem of John Milton. Milton revisited the Garden of Eden and retold the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the ingenuity of a literary canon that has given a new impetus to the controversy about who should be the actual hero: Adam or Satan? Indeed, in the early nineteenth century, the conception of Satan as the real hero of Paradise Lost gained considerable popularity. The eminent poet Shelly asserts that ‘Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character of Satan as expressed in Paradise Lost. It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever have been intended for the popular personification of evil’ (Shelley). This view of Satan is debatable and needs to be discussed in detail.
Satan has remained the most dynamic character of the epic but Adam personifies the values and traits that far exceed that of Satan who needs to plot against him to remain in good books of God in the Paradise. Satan is portrayed as a headstrong, confident and brave person but his vanity about his own powerful stature and his ambition to become God brings about his downfall. He challenges the God’s son ascendancy and incites other angels ‘[B]y what best way…Whether of open war or covert guile,/We now debate; who can advise, may speak’ (ll. 40-42).
In fact, Satan’s character is highly anti-hero primarily because despite having commendable personality and traits, his failure to cash on his good qualities is frequently displayed through his shrewd planning and deceit. He uses subterfuge and tempts Eve with apple so that Adam can also commit the action that would make him fall from God’s grace. Satan’s continued revolt against God’s decision is highly critical aspect of Satan’s character and reveals his flaws that promote chaos and therefore, do not let him become the hero of the epic. ‘Th’ Infernal Serpent; he it was whose guile / Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived / The mother of mankind, what time his pride / Of rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring / To set himself in glory above his peers / He trusted to have equaled the Most High’ (I. 35-40). The cunning and ambiguity of character diminish his more heroic traits.
Satan is also shown to possess vanity and would rather prefer hell to heaven if he can be a ruler there! ‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven’ (Book I, l. 263). Despite his bitterness, he accepts hell so that he could remain in the commanding position. His ego and his ambitious goal to become the heir of God encourage him to rebel against God and continuously resort to evil acts of revenge and wickedness. Though Satan embodies the good and the bad qualities but his display of ego in his own power and abilities ruin his chances of being the hero. His flawed logic of his own greatness prompt him towards rebellion and adopt vindictive techniques against the innocents like Eve and Adam, probably make him more of a villain and make Adam the protagonist of the epic.
Milton, John. (2004). Paradise Lost: A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Gordon Tesky. W. W. Norton
Shelley, Percy. (1821). A defense of Poetry. Excerpts from
The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2. N.Y.: W.W. Norton Inc., 1974. Read More
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