Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman

Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman

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Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman 


   Both Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle 2 and Mary Leapor's Essay on Woman expound the fatalist contention that neither man nor woman can "win," as each individual exists in a world of trade-offs. Yet, by each author's singular technique of sculpting his ideas with the literary tools of contrast, argument, and syntax, the cores of the two essays turn back to back, evolving into distinct, but contrary perspectives of Man's (in respect to mankind) and Woman's existence. Pope asserts that a profusion of trade-offs establish a certain equilibrium point where Man hangs "on this isthmus of a middle state" (Magill 2629). After defining the boundaries of Man's oscillations through a procession of clever paradoxes of words, Pope conciliates Man's unpredictable balance, or fulcrum point, as the essence of Man as an individual. Although consistent with Pope's theory of life's extremes, Mary Leapor utilizes contrasting imagery within specific female case studies to decry the life of Woman as doomed to slavery by her inevitable fate. The two poets' views ultimately oppose each other. While Pope experiments with punctuation and precision, Leapor explores the effects of personalization. By subtly but convictively proposing an optimistic perspective, that Man's confused position is his claim to fame, Pope intones his poetry with an uplifting vitality readily conducted to his reader; whereas Leapor opines Woman's confused position as the doom of life's essence and transitively condemns her reader to the incurable pessimism she so vividly relates.

 

The essence of man, as defined by Pope, is a series of paradoxical, yet concrete sets of contrasting wo...


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...les: 1968.

 

Dixon, Peter. The World of Pope's Satires. Methuen & Co, London: 1968.

 

Lonsdale, Roger. Eighteenth Century Women Poets. Ed. Oxford University Press, London: 1952.

 

 

Morris, David B. Wit, Rhyme and Couplet: Style as Content in Pope's Art. Jackson-Wallace, New York: 1993.

Rosslyn. From Alexander Pope: A Literary Life. Cambridge UP, Cambridge: 1993.

 

Sherburn, George. The Best of Pope. Ronald Press Company, New York: 1929.

 

Soloman, Harry M. "Johnson's Silencing of Pope: Trivializing an Essay of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual. New York: 1992. on Man." The Age

 

Tillotson, Geoffrey. On the Poetry of Pope. Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1950.

 

Thomas, Claudia N. Alexander Pope and His Eighteenth-Century Women Southern Illinois Readers. University Press, Carbondale: 1994.

 

 

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