What is an analysis of "Of Marriage and the Single Life"?

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"Of Marriage and the Single Life" is a short essay by Francis Bacon. Bacon begins the essay by proposing that married men and fathers stifle their own creativity and usefulness to the world when they decide to marry or when they have children. He writes that marriage and children are "impediments to great enterprises."

However, he then offers various arguments against the above proposal. He proposes, for example, that fathers "have greater care of future times." The implication here is that fathers have a greater impact upon the world, in the form of their children, than do childless men in the form of their "great enterprises." Although childless men may have the time and the freedom from responsibilities to undertake such enterprises in the present, the impact of these enterprises will be less significant, in the long term, than the impact of those men who have fathered children.

Bacon also proposes that "wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity." He argues that while single men might be able to afford to be more charitable because "their means are less exhaust," they are nonetheless "more cruel and hardhearted . . . because their tenderness is not so oft called upon." In other words, married men and fathers need to practice tenderness more often and so become, by habit, more tender and charitable than single men.

The conclusion that Bacon comes to is that although single, childless men have more freedom to, as it were, make their own way in the world, married men and fathers have the overall advantage because they have a greater impact on the world in the long term, and because they become more tender, patient, charitable people.

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