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 ignorant of the events of the future, the hope of eternal life gives man the possibility of happiness.
Pope also touches on evil and how God allows evil to exist whether or not humanity can understand it. Man knows that he possesses free will. In order for him to make the right choices, man must know that there is a choice to make between good and evil, and that he has to accept responsibility for his choices. Pope discuses the presence of evil throughout the universal chain: "If the great end be human happiness then nature deviates; and can man do less?" (330). This implies that there is beauty in nature, but there is also evil when nature destroys towns, homes and human life. If nature can be evil, how can man be expected never to be evil? Man has the power of good to help feed the hungry, care for the sick, and comfort the dying. Yet, man chooses to exercise his evil side: destroying, killing and bringing down...