THE HERO OF THE PARADISE LOST
INTRODUCTION: Milton occupies a unique place in English literature. Undoubtedly, he is the greatest epic poet in English language. His masterpiece 'The Paradise Lost' has been universally acknowledged as the greatest epic in English language. It has made Milton immortal.
CONTROVERSY: Who is the hero of this very popular epic? It has been the most controversial question in English literature. It is not easy to answer this disputed question. On this issue critics are divided in their opinions. These critics are divided into four major groups.
Most of the critics are of the opinion that it is Satan who is the hero of Paradise Lost. There is a common charge against this epic that in it Milton has glorified Satan at the expense of God. Dryden and subsequent critics have thought that Milton actually intended to make Satan his hero. The second group of critics says that either god or Adam should be treated as the hero of this epic. The third group thinks that Milton himself is the hero. The last group believes that there is perhaps no hero of this great work.
SATAN AS THE HERO: Well, there are some plausible grounds for the above mentioned paradoxical views. If we confine our attention to the grand description of Satan, it seems that he is really the hero of Paradise Lost. He is the most heroic of all the characters in the epic. All the fallen angels are majestic figures. They are skilfully discriminated one from the other. But Satan towers far above them all.
Satan's character has been treated with great sympathy and great dramatic power. He does not know to stoop. He has strong determination. He has been defeated by God but he does not admit his fall. He says 'It is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven'. All these things make Satan a heroic figure but not a ' hero'. His egoistic pride, his false conception of freedom and his hatred for the good are not the qualities of a hero. Thus he is not the ideal of Milton. In the end he is not only defeated but disgraced and damned also.
MILTON AS THE HERO: Some critics are of the opinion that Milton himself is the hero of the poem. He himself is Satan. His own characteristics are the characteristics of Satan. Like himself, he wanted to make Satan a person of unbending nature and strong determination. Like Satan Milton was an invincible rebel. He fought against the tyranny of King Charles First as Satan against the tyranny of God.
Milton had a high sense of pride, individuality and egotism. All these things are reflected in the character of Satan. Like Satan, Milton was always ready to suffer. He never stooped to lead a life of ease at the cost of his self respect. Throughout his life he was a fighter. On these bases many critics think that Milton expresses his own rebellious nature through the character of Satan. But we are not going to accept this theory. Milton is the embodiment of righteousness and virtue. He can't think to identify his own self with an enemy of Man and God.
ADAM AS THE HERO: In fact, Adam is the central figure of Paradise Lost. It is he who plays the pivotal role in this epic. He represents the human race. The whole story revolves round his character. It deals with his happiness and distress. He has nobility in his character. The major theme of this story is to justify the ways of God to Adam. Thus when we analyse Adam's character minutely, he stands as the hero of this epic. Sometimes it is said that Adam is inert and inactive. But it is not true. He is not inert and passive. It is his action that brings about the loss of paradise.
CONCLUSION: In short, he acts and suffers most. Though he is not a hero like Achilles, Ulysses and Hector etc. but his suffering and repentance makes him the main character or the hero of this grand epic. Thus as a matter of fact, it is Man who is hero of 'Paradise Lost ' and Satan is the villain.