The Enduring Wisdom in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man

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The Enduring Wisdom in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man


If learned men of a past era came to this present age of technological advance, modern man might be surprised at the observations these humans of yesterday would make. Over three centuries ago, two such men -- Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope -- made observations concerning their own time which have interesting insights to today's world. One thing Jonathan Swift might choose to expound upon is the institution of political democracy. In Gulliver's Travels, he comments, "That all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end: and which is the convenient end, seems, in my humble opinion, to be left to every man's
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Pope also accepts the idea of "God" as ruler of all, and throughout "An Essay on Man" presents "God" as all-knowing and all-powerful -- acting considerably more like a king than an elected official.

Pope's "An Essay on Criticism" presents some interesting ideas when applied to the modern infatuation with science-fiction. He believes that "good" writing uses well-established rules; it follows the path of successful writers of the past. Pope heeds his own advice regarding rules in "The Rape of the Lock" as well as his other pieces: "The Rape of the Lock" is written in the epic style previously used by Homer, Virgil, Milton, and other various poets of ancient times; "An Essay on Criticism" is written in the form of the heroic couplet -- a fitting form for an essay on literary rules. The science-fiction genre does not fit very well with Pope's literary theory on established rules. Modern science-fiction writers and editors place the beginning of their genre with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, who both wrote during the end of the nineteenth century: hardly long enough ago to be regarded as ancients, and although their books are "modern classics," they are not set forth as examples to new writers in the same way as the works of Shakespeare, Milton, or Homer. If science-fiction is thriving a few centuries from now, perhaps Pope would conclude that it is indeed a worthy genre, at least inasmuch as…

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