Analysis of Rochester's A Satyr Against Mankind Essay

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Analysis of Rochester's A Satyr Against Mankind

Although John Wilmot, better known as the Earl of Rochester, wrote "A Satyr Against Mankind" in 1679, his ideas are still relevant over three centuries later. His foresight in satirizing humankind's use of reason reinforces the intrinsic role of rationality in the human condition. But implicit in his condemnation of rationality is an intentional fallacy—the speaker of the poem uses reason in the same manner as those that he claims to abhor. In doing this, Rochester widens the perimeter of his criticism to encompass the speaker as well as those he admonishes, a movement that magnifies the satire. Considering this, the
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Leaping from unsupported assertions to logical conclusions, the speaker is a "misguided follower" (16) of his intellect, continuing his "Pathless and dangerous wandering" in his rant by haphazardly linking disparate qualms about man's proud use of reason (14). The narrator paints himself into his own skewed portrait of hyper-rational people. However, Rochester accomplishes this ironic placement unobtrusively, showing how easily the speaker is influenced by logical caprice without explicitly stating that fact.

Eventually, the narrator contests, a lifetime of experience will provide man with the surprise that his reliance on reason has been fruitless, that he has been incorrect in his logical methodology. "Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies," the narrator evokes the image of a broken machine—a mechanism that collapses with the revelation of failure (29). Implicit in this segment of the speaker's argument is that one does not recognize when others break; he must yield to the discovery himself. From this, one may infer that the narrator has already found himself huddled in dirt, for he understands the descent into epiphany from reason unbound. Despite this, he continues to manifest the same erratically rational behavior, suggesting that while the broken machine may gradually realize it is broken, it is

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