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Paradise lost: Satan as the Hero of John Milton

Paradise lost: Satan as the Hero of John Milton 



Qualities of a Hero

The hero, as a rule, must be the central figure in the epic and the epic must be about him and his exploits. Moreover, apart from being sacrificing and altruistic, he must have a number of heroic qualities as physical courage, fearlessness, skill in the use of arms, intelligent, foresight, determination and persistence. Whether Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost or not depends on the presence of the above mentioned qualities in him. However to determine it, it is imperative to analyse deep into his character in order to look for the heroic qualities in him. 


The Idea of Satan as the Hero of Paradise Lost

There can be no gained saying the fact that Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost, in-so-far as Book I and Book II are concerned. He dominates the first two books and towers head shoulders above in companions. He has a huge bulls like a Zeviathan, his shield has a circumference as blood as that of the Moon, and his spear is taller than the tallest pines used for the vast of an admiral ship. He is the Archangel still, though fallen, and his glory has been dimmed only a little. However, he is determined to suffer and endure and never yield  or Sue for grace. Being proud and independent, he is also determined to continue his war with God, for him reign in Hell is better than to slave in heaven. He can inspire his followers with his own fortitude and determination like a capable military general. Every word that he utters inspires them with new courage and fortitude. They are, no doubt large in numbers, but still they do not rebel and carry out his orders. 

Moreover, like a born leader, he takes upon himself, the hazardous task of journeying through chaos, exploring the new world and corrupting the newly created Man and Woman. His heroism in offering to undertake this dangerous enterprise is greeted by his followers with thunderous applause. As if, in order to heighten the heroism of Satan, Milton has introduced a similar scene in Heaven. The almighty asks his angels to suffer and atone for the sin of Man, none come forward for the task. Thus,  Satan in shown to be the bravest and the most heroic of all the Angels. We may also add that in gaining admittance to Eden, he exhibits great tact, intelligence and resourcefulness. His powers of eloquence and his capacity for reasoning succeed in overcoming the Scruples of Eve. 

For all these reasons, we should be justified in saying that Satan is the hero of Book I and Book II, but he cannot be regarded as the hero of the epic as a whole. Even in the very opening of Book I, we are told that the epic is not about Satan. It is about Man and his fall, it is about first disobedience of Man and the fruit of that forbidden tree. The poet intends to sing the story of the fall of man and the original Sin, how man was redeemed and his sin attoned by the supreme self sacrifice. If the son of God. Thus, the story is not at all about Satan- no doubt, he is the instrument of the fall of Man. However  he achieves this end not through heroic means, but through fraud and guile. Satan may, therefore, be called the villain of the piece with greater justification than its hero. A hero never stoops to guile, he is open and straightforward in his actions and Satan uses his guile not upon Adam, but upon Eve. Moreover, he is moved not by any noble passion, but by the passion of revenge -  his motives are ignoble and the means which he uses are equally mean and low. 


Who is the Hero of Paradise Lost? 

Now the question arises- Who is the hero of Paradise Lost? Neither god nor his son can be the hero for they are perfect and flawless, while the hero,  traditionally, must have some 'flaw' in his character. Which leads ambition - but for being a villain he cannot regarded as the hero of the epic. In this case Adam has better climax to be regarded as the hero of the epic since it is about his disobedience and fall and holds out hopes of his redemption through the suffering and self sacrifice of the Son of god. However, it has been said that Adam is too passive to be hero of the epic, it should not be ignored that Paradise Lost is a classical epic with difference. Its central theme is not the war like exploits of some great warrior, but the eternal war between good and evil for the soul of man. The virtues which are dear to Milton are not the classical virtues - and skill in the use of arms-but Christian virtues such as patience, endurance, and capacity of resignation and self sacrifice. And those virtues Adam has in plenty. He knows the outcome of the act of Eve, but knowingly and intentionally he does not desert her, but heroically decides to suffer with her the loss of Paradise. 

Thus it can be safely said that Satan may be the hero of Book I and Book II, but Adam has better claim to be regarded as the hero of the Paradise Lost as whole. 

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