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an ESSAY ON MAN

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Jack SAmeski

on 1 April 2013

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Transcript of an ESSAY ON MAN

Summary/Paraphrase

Alexander Pope explains how man is stuck in between being perfect and imperfect. The poem paraphrases as follows:

Understand yourself, don’t assume God will understand you. To understand themselves, Men should actually study themselves. Man is stuck in the middle between perfect and imperfect. A man thinks he is smart/great, but really is not and a man is too smart for the people who question. A man is too powerless for the people with strength and a man is too powerless for the people with strength. He is stuck between acting and not acting. He does not know whether to call himself good or bad and does not know whether to use his body or mind. When a man does something, he will make an error; even in his wrongdoing, he has reason for it. Whether he thinks a lot or not, he will be confused no matter what. Man will have success and failure in his life, as he is master of everything, yet can be defeated. Man is the decider of truth, yet he is fool of the world! from An Essay on Man written by Alexander Pope Brief Overview of Alexander Pope -He was born in London in 1688 of a Roman Catholic family
-His numerous health problems, including tuberculosis, caused him to be irritable all his life
-He was privately educated, and began to write at age 16
-His literary success enabled him to make a living
-He died in 1744 Line by Line Analyzation.....
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; Understand yourself, don’t assume God will
The proper study of mankind is man. Men should actually study themselves Lines 1-2 This first line is a case of Antithesis because both parts of the statement which appear in balanced form, reinforce the idea that the knowledge of man is to be achieved by the person himself by looking into himself... ...which is connotated by know then thyself, which in the literal meaning simply means "know yourself" presume, meaning to not assume without reason, connotes that you should not assume God will do thing for you, but should take action yourself "scan", in this case, means to know or understand man itself holds the qualities--ambition, intelligence, perserverance--of all mankind, so the study of mankind would actually be the study of man the word "proper" connotes that man is the correct part of mankind to study Line 3 Placed on the isthmus of a middle state, Man is stuck in the middle (between perfect and imperfect) man is living between good and bad, doing and not doing, perfect and imperfect, etc., simply just stuck stuck in the middle "placed" connotes that man really has no choice but to be in between perfect and imperfect, and he is just stuck there an isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger masses that "middle state" is man's place in life, between perfect and imperfect ....or in this case, where man is in life ***This line is a metaphor as man is being compared to an isthmus, or a middle of two other things. This metaphor establishes the idea that man is inbetween perfect and imperfect*** Line 4 A being darkly wise, and rudely great: A man thinks he is smart/great, but is really not A man/A woman "darkly wise", a paradox, is showing man in between perfect and imperfect. Although he is wise, or intelligent and clever, he is described as darkly wise, and "darkly" connotates a bad meaning of wise "rudely great", another paradox, again shows where man stands. Although he is "great", a good connotation, he is said to be "rudely", which connotes a bad meaning **This line uses two paradoxes to show that man has good qualities, that are bad at the same time, showing that man is stuck in between perfect and imperfect** Lines 5-6 With too much knowledge for the skeptics side A man is too smart for the people who question
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride A man is too powerless for the people with strength refrain or repetition: the use of "with too much...for the..." in both lines reinforces the qualities of man Poem Structure: -Rhyme Scheme: aabbccddeeffgghhii
-an Essay on Man is nine heroic couplets, 18 lines
-a heroic couplet is a stanza consisting of two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter, especially one forming a rhetorical unit and written in an elevated style Line 10 Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; When a man does something, he will make an error When a man is born he will die eventually When a man thinks he will make an error in his thought process Uses "but to" twice after the words " Born" and "reasoning", two words/events that happen every day. After "but to" the words "die" and 'err" showing the effect of what was stated before. Pope is saying that no matter what you do there will be an effect. thinking Cause: a man is born
Effect: he dies Cause: a man thinks
Effect: he makes an error Line 11 Alike in ignorance, his reason such Even in his wrongdoing, he has reason Even when the effect of the event/cause( "born" and "reasoning") goes wrong, there will still be some "reason" or good that comes out of it. A man will do something wrong and will not know the true meaning of something throughout his life. a mistake One who is unaffected by pain and struggle, and can easily endure hardship questioning; unsure "too much knowledge for the skeptics side", meaning man is too intelligent to question things...."knowledge" connotes a good meaning, or a great quality of man...the comparison of "knowledge" and "skeptic" shows how man is great more clearly "too much weakness for the stoics pride", meaning to weak for one who is strong, or can endure weakness..."weakness" is a clear connotation for a bad quality... "Stoic's pride" shows good diction, as it is comparing a small thing to something great Lines 5-6 are paradoxical in the sense that line 5 shows man to be a great, intelligent being, but then in line 6 man is portrayed as a weak being. This paradox helps show how man is in the middle of perfect and imperfect, showing one good quality, but then a bad quality right after Line 7 He hangs between; in doubt to act , or rest He is stuck between acting and not acting This is another case of man being in the middle of something. Here, it isn't perfect and imperfect, but actually doing something or not doing something "hangs" connotes man does not want to be in the middle, but mankind has put him in between one thing and another "in doubt" means not wanting/knowing to do something to do not to do Lines 8-9 In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast; Not knowing whether to call himself good or bad
In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Not knowing to use his body or mind repetition- showing the imperfectness of man to judge; to call "God" connotes good, superior qualities, whereas "beast" connotes savagery qualities....The comparison of something that is great to something that is terrible helps portray the line between perfect and imperfect in man Another scenario where man is torn between two sides. In this case, man is unsure of whether to prefer his body or mind **Using the term "in doubt" helps show that man is imperfect **Lines 8-9 are paradoxical as both lines show one great thing next to a bad thing---these paradoxes are used to show how man is both perfect and imperfect, but also not lack of knowledge this emphasizes how there is good and bad in everything, going back to the theme that man is both perfect and imperfect Line 12-13 Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused; Whether he thinks a lot or not,
There will be confusion in his thoughts antithesis emphasizes man is stuck in the middle state or on the "isthmus" Uses "chaos and "confused" to describe a man's thinking. Chaos connotes that that there is disorder happening. Pope paints the picture that man does not always know what is going on when he is thinking "whether" implies there is no hope, man will always become confused at a time in life when he is pondering something Pope is stating that since man will become confused in his life, he will never be perfect. Even the best and most knowledgeable men can be confused. Line 14 Still by himself abused, or disabused; Yet still he is corrupted or not corrupted corrupted/banged up antithesis Pope's use of antithesis again emphasizes how man is stuck in the middle this line emphasizes again that man can have attributes of someone who is perfect of someone who is imperfect , but they will never truly be one or the other. Lines 15-16 Created half to rise. and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Man will have success and failure in his life
He is master of everything, yet can be defeated antithesis man is placed in the middle between perfect and imperfect this is a paradox saying that man can still be "prey" even though he is the "lord" of all things. This again is displaying mans unbalanced as a person, he is not one thing or another. master defenseless when man is "created", no matter what happens in his life, there will be success and failure Lines 17-18 ***These two lines are paradoxical as Pope says that man is the "jest" and "judge of truth" in the world. Since those are he final two lines, it sums up the entire poem's theme of how man is stuck between perfect and imperfect. Men as a whole are the decider of truth, which is a quality that can make someone perfect. Men are also the fools of the world making them imperfect which connects the poem's theme.*** Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest and riddle of the world! Man is the decider of truth
Yet he is the fool of the world! connotes he (man) is the only judge of truth 'endless"- there are lots of mistakes in the world a playful act, a joke
-implies that man is a fool where men live, the place where men judge Tone When Alexander Pope says "the proper study" he is telling us and stating who men should study. Pope is not trying to persuade us in any way and he is being factual. He uses other matter-of-fact words saying how men are "born" and "created" to do something. The tone overall is instructive telling us what men really are. Theme The main focus in this poem is about man's place in the world. Pope says that man is "placed" on an "isthmus", meaning that he really does not know man's place in the world. He uses paradox and antithesis to show man's place in society is not defined. Pope wants to display how people can have both good and bad qualities in them. antithesis: the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences Shift -There is no shift in the poem
-The poem has a consistent meaning throughout all 18 lines
-The poem starts by talking about how man is “darkly wise” and “rudely great”, and how man has “knowledge” yet “weakness” and continues on to finish with calling a man a “judge of truth”, yet the “riddle of the world”
- Every line goes about saying the perfect and imperfect qualities of man Time Period -an Essay on Man was published in 1734, although he worked on the piece from 1729-1734
-Pope uses several hyperbatons, which is a literary device that changes the order of words to add affect. This can be seen through “presume to God to scan”, “in endless error hurled” and “A being darkly wise”...This type of writing was used in Old English writing
-an Essay on Man was written during the Restoration period of literature, where essays became a common work of art
-Restoration period involved literature with criticism…an Essay on Man was based on the criticism of the qualities of man and how he is good and bad
-Pope addresses man's ability to reason and think for himself, he questions the church and the nature of Christianity, and he also speculates about man's place in the world, which were all characteristics of the time period
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