Samuel Johnson's Rambler 184 focuses on the role chance plays in essay writing and life. He describes the essayist's capricious craft by explaining that "the mind . . . collects embellishments and illustrations, and sometimes finishes, with great elegance and happiness, what in a state of ease and leisure she never had begun." He continues, claiming that it is common for essayists to "close tedious deliberations with hasty resolves." Johnson does exactly this, writing a model essay while he explains how an essay is written.

When chance has given him a partner of his bed, whom he prefers to all other women, without any proof of superior desert, chance must again direct him in the education of his children; for, who was ever able to convince himself by arguments, that he had chosen for his son that mode of instruction to which his understanding was best adapted, or by which he would most easily be made wise or virtuous?

Whoever shall inquire by what motives he was determined on these important occasions, will find them such as his pride will scarcely suffer him to confess; some sudden ardour of desire, some uncertain glimpse of advantage, some petty competition, some inaccurate conclusion, or some example implicitly reverenced. Such are often the first causes of our resolves; for it is necessary to act, but impossible to know the consequences of action, or to discuss all the reasons which offer themselves on every part to inquisitiveness and solicitude. Since life itself is uncertain, nothing which has life for its basis can boast much stability. Yet this is but a small part of our perplexity. We set out on a tempestuous sea in quest of some port, where we expect to find rest, but where we are not sure of admission, we are not only in danger of sinking in the way, but of being misled by meteors mistaken for stars, of being driven from our course by the changes of the wind, and of losing it by unskilful steerage; yet it sometimes happens, that cross winds blow us to a safer coast, that meteors draw us aside from whirlpools, and that negligence or errour contributes to our escape from mischiefs to which a direct course would have exposed us. Of those that, by precipitate conclusions, involve themselves in calamities without guilt, very few, however they may reproach themselves, can be certain that other measures would have been more successful.

In this state of universal uncertainty, where a thousand dangers hover about us, and none can tell whether the good that he pursues is not evil in disguise, or whether the next step will lead him to safety or destruction, nothing can afford any rational tranquillity, but the conviction that, however we amuse ourselves with unideal sounds, nothing in reality is governed by chance, but that the universe is under the perpetual superintendance of Him who created it; that our being is in the hands of omnipotent Goodness, by whom what appears casual to us, is directed for ends ultimately kind and merciful; and that nothing can finally hurt him who debars not himself from the Divine favour.

Johnson emphasizes the role of chance in important life decisions such as marriage and education, listing the various forms chance takes on. The illustrations of chance in writing and life events builds up to a profound philosophy on life .The final paragraph of the essay introduces the idea that chance may not be as random as previously thought. Johnson suddenly attributes chance to God, though there is no mention of religion anywhere else in the essay. Yet, this conclusion is not by chance: Johnson has merely closed his "tedious deliberations" with "hasty resolves."

Questions

1. Midway through the first paragraph, Johnson switches from third person to first person plural and continues with it to the end. How does this change the focus of the essay?

2. The sentence in which Johnson switches grammatical person is the only simple sentence in the entire essay: "Yet this is but a small part of our perplexity." How does this separate the writing preceding it from the writing succeeding it? (Aside from the change in POV.)

The last two questions refer to this particular complex-compound sentence:

We set out on a tempestuous sea in quest of some port, where we expect to find rest, but where we are not sure of admission, we are not only in danger of sinking in the way, but of being misled by meteors mistaken for stars, of being driven from our course by the changes of the wind, and of losing it by unskilful steerage; yet it sometimes happens, that cross winds blow us to a safer coast, that meteors draw us aside from whirlpools, and that negligence or errour contributes to our escape from mischiefs to which a direct course would have exposed us.

3. The second half after the semicolon closely parallels the first half. How does the repetition of words and sentence structure affect the rhythm and flow of the essay?

4. The first half is written in passive voice, while the second is written in active voice. What effect does this have? How does chance change in this sentence?
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