Of Adversity Summary and Analysis: Francis Bacon

Read our complete notes on the essay “Of Adversity” by Francis Bacon. Our notes cover Of Adversity summary and analysis.

Of Adversity Summary:

Bacon opens the essay with the saying of Seneca, a Roman philosopher. He was a great nobleman, from 54AD to 62AD, with intense wisdom. He was a writer, philosopher, statesman and a counselor who help people to face suffering and challenges with courage. Bacon quotes his saying in a memorable speech that prosperity is always related to good things, such as happiness and relief, however, the good things that are related to adversity (bad times) should be appreciated as it shapes our personality in a positive manner. Bacon continues his argument with a Latin saying “Bona rerum secundarum optabilia; adversarum mirabilia”, meaning “things of victory are desired, opposing wonderful”. Bacon, by arguing about this point, wants us to think about adversity in a positive way; human should master to deal bliss and misery equally.

It is often seen that most of the miracle happens in the time of adversity. They happen so to completely neutralize the pain of the calamity. Bacon argues about the “faith” of a man. It is in the hands of the God to bring the calamity, and it is in his hand to bring relief from it. We have a faith that everything he does is for the goodness of his creation. He again mentions the Latin proverb meaning that the true greatness is to have the frailty of man to ask for the security of God. It is the true greatness that a powerless, weak man searches for protection in God.

Bacon further says that one can easily find miracles in the poetry. Calamities are the part of life and one cannot get over it as far as he is living. These calamities make it hard for us to have imagination. Through imagination, we can take us away from the harsh realities of life. Moreover, adversities help us to strengthen our imagination by the use of the medium such as poetry to express them.

Bacon, by referring to the Hercules and Prometheus to emphasize the virtue of bravery and fortitude. Prometheus was a monster but was great compassionate toward humans. Bacon uses the metaphor of “ocean” to show the hardship faced by the Prometheus when his torch, with which he lit the fire for humans, was sailed by Hercules. And the Hercules after sailing in the ocean find Prometheus having the tourch.

Bacon says that prosperity brings temperance (moderation) while the virtue of adversity is that it brings fortitude (courage in pain) with itself. Both of these come hands to hand and are gifts of God. As prosperity is the sacred sign of old testimony while adversity is the sacred sign of new testimony; however, adversity is superior and is an expression of God benevolent nature.

Bacon refers to the Bible and narrates the story of hardship in the life of the Job. A Job was a religious man who faced too much adversity in his life. By referring to this example, Bacon argues that if a man like a Job can face such adversities then why not a common man? Rather we should be thankful to God who makes our life worth living by giving us such adversities.

Bacon, in the end, argues that it is not necessary that prosperity will always be accompanied by joy and happiness; similarly, it is not always necessary that adversity will be accompanied by sorrow and grief nor it is not always barren and hopeless. For instance, an embroidery work upon a sad and solemn ground might be attractive but a dark and depressed work on the lightsome ground will never be attractive. Bacon advised that one should go for what his heart feel joyous not for what his eyes find attractive. By taking one side, the side of adversity, bacon says that scent intensifies its odor when it is crushed. By prosperity, one might discover the vice, but adversity helps to discover virtue.

Of Adversity Analysis:

Genre:

“Of Adversity” is Bacon’s argumentative essay in which he compares and contrasts between prosperity and adversity and draws the reader’s attention towards the positivity that adversity brings with it.

Critical Appreciation:

Bacon’s essays reflect the style of brevity and wit. His writing is direct and to the point, complete in sense and avoiding too much detail. Bacon has a systematic style, moves rationally from one point to another. The subject matters and ideas of his essays are based on real life. We found Greek and Latin proverbs in his essay of what an educated person might be familiar. In his essays, Bacon always discusses the pons and cons of the subject matter under study and helps the reader to think rationally with his arguments, justifications, and examples from real life and Literature.

All the characteristics discussed above are found in his essay Of Adversity. He represents himself as a true child of Renaissance. Of Adversity, being a penchant essay, not only has a literary value but also has social importance. In order to make his argument rational, Bacon takes help of religious scriptures, which seems to be very effective. Bacon conveyed his idea in a simple language with the use of simile and metaphors from the common experiences. This essay is the best example of his keen insight into human nature.

His essay is divided into following parts:

  • To Admire Adversity:

Prosperity is always related to good things, such as happiness and relief, however, the good things that are related to adversity (bad times) should be appreciated as it shapes our personality in a positive manner.

  • True Greatness:

Bacon argues about the “faith” of a man. It is in the hands of the God to bring the calamity, and it is in his hand to bring relief from it. We have a faith that everything he does is for the goodness of his creation. It is the true greatness that a powerless, weak man searches for protection in God.

  • Adversity and Poetry:

The calamities in our life make it hard for us to have imagination. Through imagination, we can take us away from the harsh realities of life. So, adversities help us to strengthen our imagination by the use of the medium such as poetry to express them.

  • Virtues of Adversity:

Bacon says that prosperity brings temperance (moderation) while the virtue of adversity is that it brings fortitude (courage in pain) with itself. Both of these come hands to hand and are gifts of God. As prosperity is the sacred sign of old testimony while adversity is the sacred sign of new testimony; however, adversity is superior and is an expression of God benevolent nature.

  • Adversity Better than Prosperity:

Bacon argues that it is not necessary that prosperity will always be accompanied by joy and happiness; similarly, it is not always necessary that adversity will be accompanied by sorrow and grief nor it is not always barren and hopeless. For instance, an embroidery work upon a sad and solemn ground might be attractive but a dark and depressed work on the lightsome ground will never be attractive. Bacon advised that one should go for what his heart feel joyous not for what his eyes find attractive. By taking one side, the side of adversity, bacon says that scent intensifies its odor when it is crushed. By prosperity, one might discover the vice, but adversity helps to discover the virtue.