Saturday, January 10, 2015

“Know Then Thyself”

On my first read through of excerpt I was quite confused. Then, upon reading it again, I was able to see the rather ironic comments that Pope makes on mankind, and our wish to be, and the utter impossibility of being at the status of God. I think the first paragraph is merely raising the questions and attempting to confuse the mind, while the second paragraph explains the utter absurdity of man trying to do the tasks of God; he will inevitable, “be a fool!” (line 30).

37. Discuss the use of contrast and paradox in this excerpt. In what ways does the poet juxtapose dissimilar or even opposite concepts? To what effect?

Pope is contrasts things so unalike as “God or Beast” (line 8), “NEWTON” and “ape” (line 34)…etc.

He compares completely opposite concepts such as being “abused or disabused” (line 14), “lord of all things” and “prey to all” (line 16)…etc. Contrasting these utterly dissimilar things serves to show the confusion of man and to me it indirectly proves man’s utter need for God.

38. Does the speaker's admonition in line 1 (“Know then thyself”) contradict what he says about man in the rest of the excerpt? Look particularly at the end of the first section: “The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!” Does the speaker even believe that man is capable of knowing or understanding himself?

If we as humans deem ourselves the, “Sole judge of truth” (line 17) and think we know ourselves better than God does then will most definitely end up, “in endless error hurled.” I think that this is Pope’s point in criticizing mankind. So it seems to me like “Know then thyself” is simply making fun of those who think they know themselves. This would be consistent with the rest of the excerpt. He could also being saying that we should learn our sinful nature better so we don’t fall into all these traps.

39. What is the tone of the excerpt? Does it change as the piece progresses or remain the same from beginning to end?

As the piece progresses, the tone progresses with it. It starts off with a host of confusing statements and then jumps into a more mocking tone and ends in a rhetorical and condescending way.

40. Pope uses the heroic couplet as his vehicle for expression (two successive lines of iambic pentameter, linked together by rhyme; often placed back-to-back for an overall rhyme scheme of aa, bb, cc, dd, etc. . . ; heroic has nothing to do with literary archetypes here). This is very common in Neo-classical poetry. What effect does this structure have upon your reading experience? Does it seem different from your readings of sonnets or other poetic forms?

Personally I really enjoy this. It is actually harder for me to understand poetry without rhyme schemes. I think it just flows better in my mind. I especially liked the heroic couplets and they way it connects itself, so I don’t have to go back and figure out what is connected to what.


*questions from my PHCprep class