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 Milton The Forbidden Quest for Knowledge in Doctor Faustus and Paradise Lost • Character Analysis of Satan in Paradise Lost Against Similar Literary Characters • Paradise 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