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British literature, need help with guide notes. Alexander Pope’s…

British literature, need help with guide notes.

Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man” (Day 1)

  1. As always, read Pope’s biography. What are the most interesting tidbits of information you picked up? Jot them down and be prepared to share.



  1. Let’s look at the very first verse paragraph (lines 1-16) which is kind of the prologue or statement of intent for the poem.  Pope asks his friend, St. John, to wander with him “o’er all this scene of man.” What are the two images he uses to describe this (6-7)? Then, beginning in line 8, he starts to use a different image—what? Lastly, how does he end this paragraph? What does that last line mean?


  2. That last line of the first part leads us to our first bit of terminology. This poem is known as a “Theodicy.” Find a good definition of this and explain what it is, as you understand it. (You might try going here: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Theodicy. 


  3. In Section I, Pope begins to make his “argument”; This IS an “Essay,” after all. He begins with two questions. Put them in words. Then, he begins to use astronomy imagery—appropriate in this age of scientific advancement. How does he use it to answer those questions? Finally, he ends this section (beginning on line 29) with several rhetorical questions. What is his intended answer to them?


  4. The end of section one brings up another bit of terminology that you should know, and that is “the Great Chain of Being.” What is it and how does it related to “An Essay on Man?” (You might begin with the Wikipedia page on it, which actually isn’t too bad: .)


  5. Section 2 begins with a famous question, addressed to “Presumptuous man,” followed by the question he should be asking.  WHY is he “presumptuous,” according to the questions and his answers. (Hint: You might look at the oak/weed image and the “Jove’s satellites” image early on, as well as the “proud steed” and “dull ox” at the end.)

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