Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman

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Optimism vs. Pessimism in Pope's Essay on Man and Leapor's Essay on Woman Both Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle 2 and Mary Leapor's Essay on Woman expound the fatalist contention that neither man nor woman can "win," as each individual exists in a world of trade-offs. Yet, by each author's singular technique of sculpting his ideas with the literary tools of contrast, argument, and syntax, the cores of the two essays turn back to back, evolving into distinct, but contrary perspectives of Man's (in respect to mankind) and Woman's existence. Pope asserts that a profusion of trade-offs establish a certain equilibrium point where Man hangs "on this isthmus of a middle state" (Magill 2629). After defining the boundaries of Man's…show more content…
Pope chooses neither good nor bad connotations ("A being darkly wise, and rudely great") to avoid judging either of man's extremes. Instead he skillfully chooses each word to avoid judging either extreme as good or bad, right or wrong. "Darkly," on its own, connotes the unseen, the undefined and is uniquely paired with "wise," a word denoting a grasp on definition or reason. "Rudely great" again combines two impartial words that seem to stand in a paradox as a unit - "rudely" suggests low class and lack of refinement (but lacks the moral judgment of "crudely") while "great" indicates superiority, prominence and nobility (without implying self-righteous conceit, as "grand" might have done). Paired, however, each phrase ("Darkly wise" and "rudely great") carries on its own distinctive hybridized meaning. "Darkly wise," comes to depict an indefinite sensibility and "rudely great," denotes an unrefined dignity. Much simpler contrasts between black and white, dark and light, strength and weakness might have sufficed, but, efforting to capture the depth of Man's character, Pope creates contrasts that escape the banality of common antonyms and espouse the sundry spectrums of qualities that comprise Man's character. By these contrasts, Pope was able to construct his thesis, case in point, by illustrating the creative conglomeration that propitiously sets Man apart from God and beast. Leapor contrasts images to illustrate the perfection of woman and the

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