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An Essay On Man Summary

Sandra Watson
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Summary and analysis An Essay on Man Epistle l

Summary An Essay on Man: Epistle I
The subtitle of the first epistle is “Of the Nature and State of Man, with Respect to the Universe,” and
this section deals with man’s place in the cosmos. Pope argues that to justify God’s ways to man
must necessarily be to justify His ways in relation to all other things. God rules over the whole
universe and has no special favorites, not man nor any other creature. By nature, the universe is an
order of “strong connexions, nice dependencies, / Gradations just” (30-1). This order is, more
specifically, a hierarchy of the “Vast chain of being” in which all of God’s creations have a place (237).
Man’s place in the chain is below the angels but above birds and beasts. Any deviation from this
order would result in cosmic destruction. Because the universe is so highly ordered, chance, as man
understands it, does not exist. Chance is rather “direction, which thou canst not see” (290). Those
things that man sees as disparate or unrelated are all “but parts of one stupendous whole, / Whose
body nature is, and God the soul” (267-8). Thus every element of the universe has complete
perfection according to God’s purpose. Pope concludes the first epistle with the statement
“Whatever is, is right,” meaning that all is for the best and that everything happens according to
God’s plan, even though man may not be able to comprehend it (294).



An Essay On Man Summary

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