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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
Table of Contents

TERM PAPER IDEAS

• THE CHARACTERS

1. Show how Satan changes from the beginning of the poem to the end.

2. Show how Adam changes from the beginning of the poem to the end.

3. Show the changes in Eve's character throughout the poem.

4. Contrast Raphael and Michael.

5. Look at the speeches of Moloch, Belial, and Mammon and describe their characters from those speeches.

6. Contrast Moloch, Belial, and Mammon with Sin and Death, showing how allegorical figures differ from characters.

7. Consider the characteristics of angels, using Gabriel, Abdiel, Raphael, Michael, and Uriel as examples.

8. Contrast Satan and the Son, especially in their relationship to God.

9. Choose an angel and a devil (one of the fallen angels) and compare them as examples of angels and devils in general.

10. Is God the ideal parent?

11. Contrast Satan and Abdiel.



12. Look at the dialog between Adam and Eve in Book IX, when Eve suggests working separately from Adam. What do their speeches tell us about their characters at this point?

13. Choose your favorite character in Paradise Lost and explain why you find this character attractive.

• THE EVENTS

1. Describe exactly what happens at the debate in Pandemonium. Who speaks? What decisions are made? Who makes them? What do we learn about the devils, individually and collectively, from this debate?

2. Describe Satan's journey from the time he leaves Hell until the time he returns. Why does he go where he goes?

3. Count carefully how many visitors from Heaven come down to see Adam and Eve. Briefly describe the purpose of each visit.

4. Tell the life story of Sin and Death. Why are they in the poem?

5. Contrast life in Hell and in Heaven, especially as you see it described in Book II and Book III.

6. What happens in a normal day in Paradise before the Fall? How would you characterize the life Adam and Eve live?

7. Look at the incidents in Book IX leading up to the Fall. Write a blow- by-blow description of exactly how Eve is seduced by the serpent. Is one factor more important than others for the outcome?

8. What happens to everything else in the World after the Fall? Consider what we are told about the animals, plants, weather, seasons, and planets.

• THE MEANING

1. Compare the Biblical story of creation and the version told in Book VII and explain the differences. (Consider only the creation story, as in Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2 of Genesis, not the Fall.)

2. Dr. Johnson said: "Epic poetry undertakes to teach the most important truths by the most pleasing precepts, and therefore relates some great event in the most affecting manner." Does Paradise Lost fulfill this definition of epic?

3. Who does Satan deceive most?

4. The fruit that God forbids Adam and Eve to eat comes from the Tree of Knowledge. Can you justify this in any way? Is there some knowledge man ought not to have?

5. Why does Milton use the schematic Ptolemaic universe as a background to his poem instead of the Copernican one he clearly knew? How does it fit with the events and the message of the poem?

6. Discuss the events of Book X as consequences of the Fall. Interpret their meaning.

7. Why is the atmosphere of Hell so elaborately described in Books I and II? Discuss what this introduction does for the meaning of the poem.

8. Unless you are a fundamentalist Christian, you can't take the story of Paradise Lost literally. But taken as a myth, does it have any meaning for you at the end of the twentieth century?

9. Is it necessary to the meaning of the poem for God to be distant, even unpleasantly forbidding?

Table of Contents


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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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