Paradise Lost Book Summary - Paradise Lost Book explained in key points
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Paradise Lost summary

John Milton

Adam and Eve’s Disobedience and the Battle Between Satan and God

4.5 (110 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Paradise Lost by John Milton is an epic poem that tells the story of the fall of man. It explores themes of rebellion, temptation, and the struggle between good and evil, and has had a profound influence on literature and culture.

Table of Contents

    Paradise Lost
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    Books I & II: Satan’s fallen soldiers

    Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.

    Like any good epic, Paradise Lost begins with an invocation to the Muse. Milton chooses the classical muse Urania, the muse of astronomy, to help him tell the story of man’s disobedience toward God. He also proclaims that he’ll justify God’s ways to man.

    Then, the story begins. Fallen angel Satan lies in chains on a lake of fire along with his fellow rebels. They’ve just lost their first big battle against God and plummeted to Hell. But despite their defeat, Satan wants to continue the struggle against God. In a famous line, he asserts that he’d rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

    He breaks free from his chains and calls for the other fallen angels, rattling off a long list of names: Moloch, Chemos, Baalem, Ashtaroth, Astarte, Dagon, Rimmon, Osiris, Isis, Orus, Mammon, and Belial. Satan instructs this demon army to construct a capital city for Hell: Pandemonium.

    Then, he assembles his demons to talk strategy. How should they proceed with their struggle against God? Moloch suggests open warfare against Heaven. Belial advocates for doing nothing. Mammon argues for making Hell a little nicer, so they can all live a happy life of sin.  Finally, Beelzebub, speaking for Satan, proposes to take revenge on God by corrupting his most beloved creation: mankind. Naturally, Satan’s plan prevails.

    He leaves for Earth. At Hell's Gate, he encounters his daughter Sin – half woman, half serpent. She’s surrounded by hellish dogs and accompanied by their incest-spawned son Death. Satan instructs Sin to open the gates of Hell. But once opened, Sin is unable to close them again.

    Satan wanders through the limbo between Heaven and Hell, where he meets the allegorical figures Chaos and Night. As he moves toward Earth, Sin and Death follow his path – broadening it into a superhighway for evil to follow.

    ANALYSIS

    Paradise Lost is an epic poem in the tradition of ancient literary masters like Homer and Virgil and Christian successors like Dante. Milton follows their example by opening his poem with an invocation to a Muse. He calls on Urania as the “heavenly” muse of astronomy, mixing classic and Christian symbolism.

    Then he begins his story in medias res, right in the middle of things – another epic tradition. Satan has just fallen from Heaven after rebelling against God and is about to establish his new kingdom of Hell.

    Protagonist Satan might be construed as some kind of antihero, but Milton doesn’t want readers to sympathize with the devil. Milton makes it clear that Satan’s power is illusory, since it ultimately derives from God. Satan’s battle is lost before it’s begun. But that won’t keep him from trying.

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    What is Paradise Lost about?

    Paradise Lost (1667) is an early classic of English literature. In over ten thousand lines of verse, the epic poem tells the biblical story from Satan’s rebellion against God to Adam and Eve’s original sin. Written at a time of great political and religious upheaval, the epic proves an impressive inquiry of free will, sin, and the nature of evil to this very day.

    Paradise Lost Review

    Paradise Lost (1667) is an epic poem by John Milton that delves into the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent consequences. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its profound exploration of good and evil, it raises thought-provoking questions about the nature of humanity and the divine.
    • Written in exquisite verse, Milton's vivid imagery brings the story to life, immersing readers in a timeless tale of loss, redemption, and the search for meaning.
    • Far from mundane, Paradise Lost expertly weaves together Biblical, classical, and literary references, making it a captivating literary feast that demands to be savored.

    Who should read Paradise Lost?

    • Fans of epic battles between good and evil
    • Students of English literature
    • Anyone interested in theology and philosophy

    About the Author

    John Milton (1608–1674) was an English poet, intellectual, and civil servant. He’s widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language. Of his numerous books, Paradise remains his most important work. Despite facing challenges such as political persecution and blindness in his later years, Milton left a significant impact on Western literature and political thought.

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    Paradise Lost FAQs 

    What is the main message of Paradise Lost?

    The main message of Paradise Lost is a complex exploration of the fall of humankind and the nature of evil.

    How long does it take to read Paradise Lost?

    The reading time for Paradise Lost varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Paradise Lost a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Paradise Lost is a profound masterpiece that delves into themes of redemption, free will, and the human condition. A must-read for those interested in epic poetry and philosophical exploration.

    Who is the author of Paradise Lost?

    John Milton is the author of Paradise Lost.

    What to read after Paradise Lost?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Paradise Lost, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard Keynes
    • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
    • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    • The Order of Things by Michel Foucault
    • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
    • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens