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In An Essay on Man Alexander Pope explains that humans are positioned in the correct order and should never question God judgment. The perfect order Pope describes was; first God, second angels, third humans and lastly animals and precious metals. Mans place between angels and animals is unyielding and steady. In Epistle 1 he states that man is positioned correctly in the universe, and it is a sin to question Gods verdict. Popes motivation of writing this poem was to explain how ungrateful and dim-witted people have become.
God created humans, Gods children; why should humans be able to over take their creator and father? Alexander Pope begins by asking rhetorical questions in order to prove his point:
Say first, of god above, or man below,
What can we reason, but from what we know?
Of man, what see we but his station here,
From which to reason, or to which refer? (1. 1. 17-20)
Alexander Pope then illustrates the imperfections in humans Why formed us so weak, so little, so blind(1 36).
Alexander Pope also relates the relation ship between humans to God as to weeds are to oak trees. Ask of thy mother, why oaks are made / Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade? (I. 1. 39-40). As Gods servants we are in his shadow, much like the weeds that are eclipsed by the oak. It is has always been that way and it will always be so. Alexander Pope implies that God is correct to allow an imperfection in man, and that God’s wisdom proclaim is always right.
Also in Popes writing he acknowledges that what we call imperfection in man cannot be linked to God’s injusticeness.
So man, who here seems principal alone,
Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown,
Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal;
Tis but a part we see, and not a whole. (1.1. 57-60)
If man could relate his imperfection to God’s intricate order. If man could see the master plan, we would understand that humans have not been wronged by God. Pope admits that evil exists, although he refuses to allow his readers to attribute its existence to the injustice of God. Instead, Pope writes that these complaints are due to the pride of man: “Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine, / Earth for whose use? Pride answers, ‘Tis for mine” (1. II. 131-132). Men claim that God’s creation is imperfect because they mistakenly believe that everything was created specifically for them. Alexander Pope argues that this idea is selfish and ridiculous. Pope admits that “If the great end be human happiness, / Then Nature deviates;” (1. 1. 149-150). He does not believe, however, that God created the world solely for man’s happiness. If mans pride is not satisfied by the fulfillment of every desire and not furbished with perfection, he will enviously cry: “Yet cry, if man’s unhappy, God’s unjust” (1. I. 118).
These complaints, by man are narrow-minded and very ridiculous. Pope writes that men are considering themselves to be wiser than God. Pope demonstrates the absurdity of this attitude when he writes: “Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, / Rejudge his justice, be the God of God!” (1. II. 121-122). Alexander Pope argues, whenever man passes judgment on God’s creation it rises him to a level of authority higher than that of God Himself. “Aspiring to be Angels,” writes Pope, “Men rebel” (1. I. 128). Man refuses to accept that God has wisely placed him in the present order. He aspires first to be an angel, but his aspiration does not end there. Man mutinies against God Himself, snatching the rod of justice from his hand.
Pope emphasizes the absurdity of this rebellion when he asks: “What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, / Or hand to toil, aspired to be the head?” (I. I. 259-260). God has placed each person wisely, where as man does not belong an angle your hand rightfully does not belong on your head. Man’s envy leads him to wish that he were some other part, “And who but wishes to invert the laws / Of Order, sins against the Eternal Cause.” (1. II. 129-130). Man’s very desire for perfection is envious and therefore sinful, and his attempt, could it ever succeed, would prove disastrous. For, “From Nature’s chain whatever link you strike, / Tenth or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike” (1. II.245-246). Fortunately, all rebellions are unrewarding, because they are not only destined to fail but you also turn you back on God. People overcome with envy, cowardly complain that they had not been given all the gifts, talents, and positions they wanted, just as the people of Pope’s time!
complained that God had made them imperfect.
Heaven from all creatures hides in the book of fate,
All but the page prescribed, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men who spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below? (1. 1. 77-80)
Pope asserts that God has wisely placed each man in His great order. “Then say not man’s imperfect, Heaven in fault; / Say rather, man’s as perfect as he ought” (1. 69-70). Pope insinuates that man is not to be at fault for being imperfect, but God perfectly place man where we needed to be. Although, in doing so God should not be criticized merely because he has not gave man everything they desire. “Who finds not Providence all good and wise,” Pope asks, “alike in what it gives, and what denies?” (1. 1.205-206) Although man may not understand why, God is correct to deny him certain blessings.
Ultimately, Pope wants men to stop complaining that God is unjust and instead yield to his wisdom. Man may not ever understand why he lacks certain abilities. Even more unexplained is the existence of suffering and evil. God placed us in a perfectly organized, in an imperfect world. Rather than look for an answers, and blame God for evil’s existence, man should put their faith in God, knowing that one day all will be explained: “Hope humbly then… Wait the great teacher Death, and God adore!” (I. 11.91-92). This hope requires patience.
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