An Essay on Man consists of four epistles, which is a term that is historically used to describe formal letters directed to a specific person.
An Essay on Man is written in heroic couplets, which consist of rhyming lines made up of five iambs.
Iambs are metrical feet that have two syllables, with one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, as in 'belong' or 'along' or 'away.' Heroic couplets had been used for hundreds of years before An Essay on Man was written and were associated with lofty and epic poetry.
The Enlightenment emphasized the glory of reason and science and reflected the ideal that man could understand the world around him.
This hope for understanding and outlining the human condition is at the heart of An Essay on Man.
The fact that Pope used this form for the poem reflects his desire to produce a respectable and idealistic work.
Although the poem uses this traditional form, its beauty and power comes from Pope's ability to produce lines that are both unique and packed with a tremendous amount of meaning.Rather, people must strive to embrace the universal truths of humanity's existence.One of the main terms that Pope returns to throughout this epistle is the importance of virtue as a way to temper human imperfections and help people be content in their God-given position.In the poem, Pope attempts to 'vindicate' God's ways to man, a task that clearly echoes John Milton's famous claim in the epic poem Paradise Lost, which was first published in 1667 and told the story of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.However, unlike Milton's Paradise Lost, An Essay on Man is not specifically Christian and instead attempts to identify an ethical system that applies to humanity in a general sense.Whereas the first epistle explores the inherently complex relationship man has with his material existence, the second describes the relationship that man has with his own desires, mental faculties, and spiritual aspirations.Pope again reinforces the idea that humans cannot fully understand God, but he also claims that self-love and reason can help man understand himself.To understand the poem and the impulse behind it, it's important to look at the ideas that were popular when Pope was writing.Pope lived from 1688 to 1744 and was considered one of the most definitive and influential voices of the first half of the 18th century.Rather, human beings must accept that their existence is the result of a perfect creator who created everything as perfectly as it can possibly be.The second epistle uses the harmony described between humanity and the cosmos in the previous epistle to illustrate how humans can achieve harmony within themselves.