Many consider Paradise Regained inferior to Paradise Lost, as it offers less complexity in characterization and moral ambiguity. However, this is less a consequence of stylistic inadequacy than of narrative constraints, as the Temptation is less open to interpretive license than the Creation. Nevertheless, Milton takes plenty of poetic license in expanding the core story without changing the story.
The poem was composed in Milton's cottage in Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, and was based on the Gospel of Luke's version of the Temptation of Christ. Paradise Regained is four books in length, in contrast with Paradise Lost's twelve.
One of the major concepts emphasized throughout Paradise Regained is the play on reversals. As implied by its title, Milton sets out to reverse the 'loss' of Paradise. Thus, antonyms are often found next to each other throughout the poem, reinforcing the idea that everything that was lost in the first epic is going to be regained by the end of the mini-epic.
Additionally, this work focuses on the idea of "hunger", both in a literal and in a spiritual sense. After wandering in the wilderness for forty days Jesus is starved of both food and the Word of God. Satan, too blind to see any non-literal meanings of the term, offers Christ food and various other temptations, but Jesus continually denies him.
Contrary to misconceptions of the poem, the theme of "hungering" is not in direct tension with Paradise Lost, as in Paradise Lost it is not any distinctive "hunger" for the fruit of knowledge that drives Adam and Eve to the fall, but rather a consequence of various themes coming to a culmination in Satan's manipulation of Adam and Eve's human desire. Instead, Milton is in both places extrapolating on one of his favorite themes, first developed in his 19th Sonnet, "those also serve who stand and wait," as Eve and Adam are instructed to wait for their ascension and fail to, while Jesus patiently endures all of Satan's trials and at the end proclaims "Tempt not the Lord thy God; he said and stood" as Satan - never one to wait, always one to impatiently act - falls. Thus, there is no symbolic opposition between spiritual food and the food of knowledge, but rather a critique of the proleptic drive for overhasty action and an endorsement of patience, standing and waiting.
Paradise Regained inspired Dutch modernist poet Hendrik Marsman to compose a poem of the same name.