Analysis of Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man

Analysis of Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man

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Analysis of Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man

 
There are three main issues that Pope talks about in his long poem "An Essay on Man." First, the poet evokes a timeless vision of humanity in which the universe is connected to a great chain that extends from God to the tiniest form of life. Secondly, Pope discusses God's plan in which evil must exist for the sake of the greater good, a paradox not fully understandable by human reason. Thirdly, the poem accuses human beings of being proud and impious. Pope feels that man claims more insight into the nature of existence then he possesses.

In "An Essay on Man" Pope is trying to make clear the relationship of humanity to the universe, himself, society and also to happiness. He states "For me health gushes from a thousand springs; seas roll to waft me suns to light- me rise; My footstool earth my canopy the skies" (330). Pope implies that the universe is created for man's pleasures and needs and so therefore we are all connected to the chain of universal order. Through this connection man realizes that all are part of one stupendous whole. He then suggests that this order extends further then we know; any interference with it could destroy the whole. Pope asks in the poem,  "Is the greater chain, that draws all to agree,  upheld by God or thee?" (327).

Here he explains that by conforming to the order of the universe we can all agree on and connect to one goal. Through this connection, we would then reach the purest form of humanity. The belief in this poem is that although things do not turn out well for some individuals, everything falls into place in the great chain of the universe. In the long run everything works out for the best, Pope argues. Because humanity is ignor...


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...m with these words: "Whatever is, is right" (333). This implies that things are done or happen for a reason. When humanity tries to change things for individual gain rather than the improvement of the whole it weakens the chain, which in turn affects the rest of the universe. I believe we are all individuals who are connected to a higher power, whatever that power may be. The beauty of humanity is exactly that individuality. I agree with Pope in the sense that we are all connected somehow, but I do not agree with total submission in order to achieve total unity. Rather than total submission, I believe our mission is to connect with the universe by using the special gifts given to us by the power that unites us.

Works Cited 

Pope, Alexander. "Essay on Man." Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces 6th ed. Ed. Maynard Mack et.al. New York: Norton, 1992. 326-333

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