Paradise Lost



Adam is the most likely protagonist of Paradise Lost. Before the Fall, he is nearly perfect in every way: strong, intelligent, confident without being arrogant, and utterly devout. There are, however, two character traits that distinguish Adam before the Fall and contribute to his ultimately falling into temptation. One is his curiosity, which at times pushes the boundaries of what God desires in man. In his conversation with Raphael, the angel admonishes Adam for his curiosity about the movement of the stars and planets in the sky, emphasizing that God intends for man to keep his “knowledge within bounds” (7.120). This, of course, hints at the pull which the humans feel toward the Tree of Knowledge, and lets the reader know that Adam may have a weak spot when it comes to acquiring knowledge.

Adam’s real weakness, however, is Eve, and his devotion to her is his other distinguishing characteristic. Adam confesses to Raphael that Eve causes him mental agitation, that he is “in all enjoyments else/Superior and unmoved, here only weak” (8.531-32). In general, Adam is highly rational and composed. When it comes to Eve, however, he is romantic, and cannot think clearly. Adam’s passionate and loving nature thus leads him into temptation because he cannot bear the thought of living without Eve. In the moment when Adam eats the forbidden fruit, his reason tells him that it is a sin, but his heart overrules his reason.

After the Fall, Adam still possesses great strength, intelligence, and the capacity for love; he loses, however, his composure and confidence. The change is evident in his volatile arguments with Eve as well as the recriminations he heaps upon himself. His remarkable ability to reason is not destroyed, but it is now affected by anger, shame, and self-doubt.

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Essays About Paradise Lost