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Please explain the first twenty lines in the poem '' The Vanity of Human Wishes''?

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted November 25, 2012 at 6:28 PM via web

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Please explain the first twenty lines in the poem '' The Vanity of Human Wishes''?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Samuel Johnson's "The Vanity of Human Wishes" explains how the speaker believes that all of mankind needs to be observed in order to identify the problems associated with humanity.

The first twenty lines of the text prove to define life as busy, crowded, and filled with a spectrum of different emotions. Diving further into the desires of mankind, the speaker states that mankind is "betray'd by venturous pride" (7). In fact, pride seems to be responsible for leading all of mankind astray and without a guide.

Soon after, the speaker states that mankind fails to use reason enough in life. Instead, mankind's choices are lead by vengeance and treacherous phantoms. At the end of the stanza, the speaker states that everything which should matter (nature and art) does not. Instead, the only thing which matters is the fiery death which follows pride and "clouded fate."

Essentially, the speaker is raising the reader's awareness about the ills of mankind. Mankind, driven by busy, prideful, and vengeance filled lives, is doomed to death based upon their inability to see what really matters in life. By ignoring what really matters, mankind is destined to be forsaken by others and themselves.

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