Study Guide

The Vanity of Human Wishes Dreams, Hopes and Plans

By Samuel Johnson

Dreams, Hopes and Plans

"The Vanity of Human Wishes" is a poem about the futility of human striving. We may want money, we may want power, we may want fame (hey, who doesn't?), but the speaker of this poem suggests that striving after these things is useless. We just ain't gonna get them. And even if we do, they will be fleeting. In fact, most of the poem can be read as a "case" that the speaker puts forward for why we shouldn't bother with hoping or dreaming for things.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes and Plans

  1. According to the speaker of this poem, is there any point in having any hopes or making any plans for the future? If not, why not?
  2. This poem is entitled "The Vanity of Human Wishes." How and why do human wishes, or dreams, plans, hopes in general, reflect vanity?
  3. How can wisdom affect what we wish and hope for, according to the speaker of this poem?
  4. What do some of the historical examples that the speaker references teach us about the futility of hopes, plans, and dreams?

Chew on This

Why bother? It is pointless to have any hopes or to make any plans for the future.

Sorry to break it to you like this, but we can never be happy—given that all our plans, dreams, and hopes for the future will come to nothing.

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