Man the Design and Epistles Essay

Pages: 6 (2139 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

We are told:

Self-love, still stronger, as its object's nigh;

Reason's at distance, and in prospect lie:

That sees immediate good by present sense;

Reason, the future and the consequence.

Thicker than arguments, temptations throng,

At best more watchful this, but that more strong. (II.70-5)

In other words, reason helps man make correct decisions but it is not always easy to reach that decision. Additionally, we are told, Attention habit and experience gains;/Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains" (II.78-9). In short, man is effected by our emotions. He puts it very succinctly when he says, "Pleasure, or wrong rightly understood,/Our greatest evil, or our greatest good" (II.90-1). Again, we are faced with the complexity if human nature. And again, we are reminded that it is not always easy to make correct decisions. The poet tells us, "strength of mind is exercise, not rest" (II.103). It is man's responsibility to recognize selfish impulses and restrain from acting on them. This is a result of balancing them with reason, which leads us to a life of virtue. We are told:

Love, hope, and joy, fair pleasure's smiling train,

Hate, fear, and grief, the family of pain,

These mixt with art, and to due bounds confin'd,

Make and maintain the balance of the mind:

The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife

Gives all the strength and colour of our life. (II.116-21)Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Man the Design and Epistles Assignment

We should look beyond ourselves to reach virtue. The poet reminds us, "The God within the mind./Extremes in nature equal ends produce,/In man they join to some mysterious use" (II.201-3). If we do not pursue virtue, we fall prey to vice. The poet warns us by saying, "Where ends the virtue or begins the vice./Fools! who from hence into the notion fall,/That vice or virtue there is none at all" (II. 208-11). When we make a mistake we can be sure that we will encounter suffering and pain. Man must seek virtue to overcome these difficulties. In this way, man can see himself as he really is in the universe. Virtue is the foundation for mankind and because of this, virtue should be the goal of man.

Epistle II ends with the poet declaring:

Ev'n mean self-love becomes, by force divine,

The scale to measure others' wants by thine.

See! And confess one comfort still must rise;

Tis this, Tho' man's a fool, yet God is wise. (II.288-91)

This statement insists that man must believe in a higher order of the universe, which means relinquishing a certain amount of pride.

In conclusion, Pope's "Essay on Man" explores the depths of human nature, focusing on attributes that sometimes stand in our way for achieving true bliss. The balance of reason and self-love must be reached in order to attain virtue. In a universe that is difficult to comprehend, Pope illustrates how difficult this can be. However, virtue connects us to the truths of the universe, which is that whatever is, is right and that God is wise, despite what we may think.

Works Cited

Abrams, M.H. "An Essay on Man." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. I. New York W.W. Norton and Company. 1986.

An Essay on Man, or, The First Book of Ethic Epistles." Gale Database. 1999. http://www.infotrac.comSite Accessed March 01, 2004.

Cutting-Gray, Joanne. "System, the divided mind, and the Essay on Man." Studies in English Literature. Vol. 32.1992. Accessed March 01, 2004.

McLaverty James. "Warburton's false comma: Reason and virtue in Pope's Essay on Man." Modern Philology. Vol. 99. 2002. ProQuest Database.

Pope, Alexander. "An Essay on Man." Bartleby Online. Site Accessed March 01, 2004. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Man the Design and Epistles" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Man the Design and Epistles.  (2004, March 4).  Retrieved January 19, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Man the Design and Epistles."  4 March 2004.  Web.  19 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Man the Design and Epistles."  March 4, 2004.  Accessed January 19, 2021.