Study Guide

The Vanity of Human Wishes Fate

By Samuel Johnson

Fate

Fate is not very kind to us, according to the speaker of this poem. It has a way of making things really hard for us. Fate doesn't give us what we want, but what we don't want. It raises us up, only to tear us down again. The poem's speaker suggests that we can't fight fate. We have to just sit back and accept the blows that it deals us. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

  • Lines 5-6: In these lines, fate is represented as a scary "maze" that we have to navigate. It's tough finding our way through, and it's even tougher because our judgement is often clouded by our own pride. 
  • Lines 15-16: The imagery the speaker uses to describe fate here represents it as "afflictive," an attack. When we wish for or desire something, fate creates a "dart" that will pop our happy hopes for us. 
  • Lines 125-126: The imagery associated with fate in these lines again depicts it as dangerous. "The steeps of fate" suggest that fate is like a tall, dangerous mountain that we have to scale. 
  • Lines 311-312: The speaker tells us in these lines that very few of us can escape the troubles that fate brings us. The imagery of fate as dangerous is suggested in the geographic depiction of the "gulfs" of fate. Fate is full of big holes ready to swallow us up. 
  • Lines 345-346: In these lines, the speaker again describes fate in terms of geography. Man is depicted as rolling along the "torrent" of fate, apparently unable to swim against the current.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...