Study Guide

Paradise Lost by John Milton in Reader-Response Theory

Paradise Lost by John Milton

So Stanley Fish wrote a book called Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost. He set out to explore how readers respond to John Milton's epic about the creation of humans—and their fall from grace.

One of the big characters in the poem is Satan. Yup, we're talking about that dude with horns, tails, and a pitchfork—the embodiment of evil. Well, sort of. The thing is, Milton's Satan is actually a pretty interesting guy. Stanley Fish spends a lot of time talking about Satan in Surprised by Sin because—get this—he says that when we read Paradise Lost, we just can't help liking Satan.

Let's look at the passage below. It's a scene depicting Satan—disguised as a snake in the Garden of Eden—seducing Eve and making her eat an apple from the Forbidden Tree. You know, the tree that God told Adam and Eve never to eat from.