The attitudes portrayed in Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man and Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” towards mankind is strikingly similar. Both acknowledge the view that man has dominion over the earth, as created and instituted by God. However, the difference is seen in their approaches to this subject. Pope primarily focuses on man’s pride and place in society, whereas Swift discusses how man deals with certain situations reasonably or unreasonably. Pope and Swift present situations that man has to face in conjunction with illogical conclusions.
Besides exhibiting illogical conclusions, they also show the selfish, prideful, rebellious, jealous, and the ungrateful characteristics of man. The narrator in Swift’s, “A Modest Proposal” appears to be a logical, educated person who has been studying the subject of impoverished citizens, primarily women and children, for years. He does this by informing the reader of his working relationship with scholars, as well as thought out and gathered calculations, followed by examples of children having no hope for the future. He transitions into illustrating his proposal from giving his findings by stating, “I have too long digressed, and therefore shall I return to my subject” (Swift 457).
The narrator indicates his proposal, which appears to be illogical to the reader. He does this so that the reader will not agree with the solution to overpopulation by eating babies, but for them to realize the situation they are in and come up with a more rational solution.
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Alexander Pope addresses in “An Essay On Man” the issue of the pride and man and man’s emphasis on knowledge. He indicates that in our attempt to gain more knowledge and wisdom that we press beyond the limits, and that some things mankind is not able to know. Pope suggest to the reader to submit to the laws of nature, and do not think or act beyond mankind. He has the concept that there is a divine order and grand scheme of things and to rest in the place that you are in. Pope states:” All Nature, is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good: And spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s pride, One truth is clear, whatever is, is right” (Pope 518. 289-295).
From the religious stand point, the reader can assume that Pope is suggesting that man needs to be content with where he is and count everything as done in a divine order. He also suggest that it is better to trust in the laws of nature, than to lean to thine own understanding. While seeking wisdom and knowledge is acceptable, as well as having a sense of pride, man needs to respect and adhere to the boundaries that have been created. The opposite appears in the work of Jonathan Swift. He presents a situation that clearly needs to be changed.
The intent of the narrator, from the reader’s understanding and perception is that he is trying to open the eyes of those in leadership and those common citizens to step up and do something about the problem they are facing, before it gets worse. He comments at the end, “I profess, in the sincerity of heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country… .” (Swift 489).