Essay on Man summary
The 18th century is characterized by strong cosmological, ethical, and theological thoughts, all represented in Pope’s poem. Not only his poem but also his beliefs have been strongly influenced by Lord Bolingbroke’s philosophy. The main conceptions of the poem revolve around continuity, gradation, and plenitude. In the writer’s vision plenitude really means a fullness of creation, a world filled with the creations of God.
All the creations are marked by gradation as well, meaning that there is a rank between the creations. There are creations of a lower rank, which increase, the highest rank being God himself. As a result, there is some subordination between the creatures and there is a slight variation between the ranks. On this ladder of ranks, “man” (representing the entire humanity or mankind) is on the upper rank due to its virtue. The harmony of the world depends on the small parts, which make up the whole.
The last concept, continuity, refers to the continuous creation. In Pope’s perception, this really means the divine and social love that ties all creation together, creating an organized structure.
The structure of the poem: If you have to choose a case study topics and you have chosen Essay on Man as your topic, it might be a good idea to start writing on each of the epistles. However, you could start by saying that it is structured in four epistles in which Pope tries to prove that, although there is a lot of evil in this world and some things are chaotic and unexplainable, there is some ruling order that makes things work in a rational manner. As a result, the world as a whole is God’s perfect creation. People perceive it imperfect only because their intellect is limited. The conclusion of the poem is that the “man” needs to accept their role in the Great Chain of Being. They are situated above the beasts, but below the angels and this is the best place for people to lead a happy life.
The ideas of the poem: Epistle I revolves around the nature of mankind and its place in the universe. Epistle II is actually an essay on early man, as an individual. When reading the poem in the 21st century, it seems more than outdated, but it paints a precise picture about how people were seen in the given period. Epistle III focuses on the interpersonal relationships, how men relate to the society they live in, and it also presents the social and political hierarchies. In the end, Epistle IV presents the struggle of mankind to find happiness.
When doing a case study on Essay on Man, you should make sure to mention that, upon writing, the poem was really controversial and Pope’s ideas have been challenged on several accounts. Most critics addressed the fact that this was supposed to be a philosophical work instead it has become a poetic one, so there is no added intellectual value. Nonetheless, the views of Pope did find some supporters among contemporary intellectuals, some of them claiming that his work doesn’t represent a static picture of the world, but a living organism and should be handled as such.
Essay on Man: The relationship between Pope and Voltaire
Voltaire and the author of the poem Essay on Man had a relatively close relationship. Voltaire spent two years in England and during this time he got well acquainted with Pope. They carried on corresponding even after Voltaire’s return to the continent. He has been an admirer of Pope. This is proven even by the title of his work. He was influenced by Pope and was his heated supporter.
Leinbitz and his influence: Although Pope didn’t admit it, he has been greatly influenced by the work of Leibnitz. The ideas expressed in the Moralist have been presented in Essay on Man as well, in a more poetic form. Nonetheless, this question has never been settled and it seems like it will remain open forever. However, the truth is that the writer might have been indoctrinated by Bilingbrok, who, in turn, has been influenced by Shaftesbury.
The major ideas of the poem: In case you have to write a paper on a literary piece of this kind, you will have more freedom than in case of an accounting paper and you won’t have to think about how to make a thesis. However, it is of the upmost importance for you to truly understand the meaning of the poem. This is why you should make sure you focus on the main ideas. Firstly, Pope believed that there is an infinitely wise God. In his wisdom, he created the Earth, which is the best it could possibly be. The created world is a reality and it is ordered hierarchically. Only the whole can be considered good, a part is imperfect.
As it has been mentioned before, Pope focused on the individuals as well, claiming that both social love and self-love can be motivating. In the same time, virtue is attainable. However, people have to understand that there is only one clear truth: whatever exists, is right. In the author’s vision, there is no good without evil and there is a need for the partial evil to create the whole good. Good can come from bad things. For instance, envy can make people work harder, thus becoming better persons.
Although there is no need for a thesis conclusion, you could still summarize the mentioned ideas and emphasize the fact that the poem is actually an essay on invisible man or better yet, on the entire mankind, as a whole. You may not agree with these ideas, but you should value how people of the 18th century appreciated the role of men on earth.
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