A Brief Critique of Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man"

Essay by ebarnichtaCollege, UndergraduateA-, October 2007

download word file, 4 pages 5.0

Downloaded 37 times

The satirical piece "An Essay on Man" by Alexander Pope is probably one of the best written poems ever written. Although the name suggests that this masterpiece is an essay, it is in fact written in verse, making it a poem. Pope's work is separated into four epistles where he looks at four different aspects of man. The first epistle refers to The Nature and State of Man with Respect to the Universe, the second looks at The Nature and State of Man with Respect to Himself as an Individual, the third epistle adds to the piece by speaking of The Nature and State of Man with Respect to Society, and the final epistle is about The Nature and State of Man with Respect to Happiness. In four epistles Alexander Pope successfully dissects the ways of man in a rational attempt to explain the mere mortal and his place in this world.

However, in the following assessment, for matters of length, only three out of the four epistles will be commented on. Pope ends a brief introduction to this work by saying that he wrote this because he wants to "vindicate the ways of God to man" (Pope 46).

In the first section of Essay on Man, Pope speaks about the man in the abstract. He introduces the concept of the great chain of being. Pope's argument is that all things have their place. One of the motif's present in the first epistle is conjugated in the following verses: "Then say not man's imperfect, Heaven in fault; / Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought" (47). Here Pope explains that man is not imperfect, but God created man suited to where he has been placed and as perfect as he should be. He then goes on to...