Analysis of the Rape of the Lock
Rakesh Ramanjulu Professor Sarah Rice ENGL 216-B05 13 July 2011 Mock Epic of “The Rape of the Lock” “The Rape of the Lock” written by Alexander Pope is an intriguing poem in its whole. He makes this poem into an epic mock. Where he writes about how ridiculous the group he associates with have an “epic” card match over a lock of hair. “The Rape of the Lock” overall shows us how high society quarrels can resemble a great epic. Pope use of the mock epic was well written where a reader cannot read this whole poem without thinking of the great epics of the world.
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Pope successfully satirizes the idea of an epic by using a mock epic and ridiculing his peers. Pope shows us the how a mock epic is good representation of both worlds. Like other mock-epics, the Rape of the Lock both takes from and common epics to comment on Pope’s society. The mock-epic usually does the two following: to take the epic form by forcing it to attend to average things and, then ascend the poem’s content or words to a heroic status (Rousseau, 3). The Rape of the Lock exaggerates an otherwise average subject to an epic or heroic status while also soiling the idea of an epic form with rather sad and unheroic matters.
Ironically, this writing of Pope’s Rape of the Lock has an almost opposite effect, but in the end it still makes fun of the idea of an epic. The epic was a common type of writing by individuals like Homer, Virgil, and Milton. The mock-epic takes some of the ideas of an epic and twists them into its own liking. The hero, the journey into the underworld or Hades, the machinery, epic battles: the epic includes all of these elements, among others. The Rape of the Lock adopts those ideas of an epic and then evolves or twists them to adapt them to fit the mock form (Hunt, 15).
The purpose of the mock-epic was to take the epic form and not only make fun of it, but to also use some characteristics of an epic to make a statement. However, a mock epic did not necessarily destroy an epic in its entirety. Pope takes this into consideration with the Rape of the Lock. In the end of the poem or Canto V, the character Clarissa, in a harsh manner, ridicules Pope’s social circle. Pope ends Clarissa’s speech with, “Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may role; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul” (Pope, 5. 33-34). With that final statement, Pope was able to relay the moral of the poem.
Though the contents of the poem were nowhere near the level of greatness as like the Iliad or Odyssey, it does convey the moral which was not common to hear in Pope’s time. The epic moral, an essential idea in an epic, is made void because of the content of the poem, but the moral is still there. It is reveled in the epic speech, and not just for writing purposes either; Pope is trying to say something to his peers. In this instance, Pope deviates from the idea of a mock-epic to reveal the epic in the end by showing us the moral of the poem in a rather human way. Pope wants us to truly understand the message of his poem.
Pope did use a mock-epic to truly and almost destroy the idea of an epic, but gave us a moral of epic proportions. Except for the idea of an epic moral, the rest of the Rape of the Lock works in an opposite manner. The idea of a mock-epic is to satire the idea of an epic. The usual characteristics of and epic, like the idea of a hero and gods, are in in Pope’s mock-epic to make the content seem epic when in reality it is the exact opposite. Pope presents Belinda as both as a hero and also as a god. Mock-epics were simply an easy idea and advantageous to Pope especially for ridicule.
In reality, Belinda was a human, but Pope took the time by elevating her to the likeness of a deity. By elevating her to a deity status, Pope is also converting the epic into the mock-epic, and by doing so is indirectly ridiculing woman and their values. It is easy to see where Pope received the idea of Belinda’s “vanity. ” He took the idea of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and implemented many ideas into his own poem. Eve, when she first awakes, becomes obsessed with her own image, similar to Narcissus of Greek Mythology, before going to Adam. Kinsley writes, “it was Eve’s vanity that later made her susceptible to the serpent’s temptation.
Belinda’s infatuation [. . . ] will perhaps have proportionally serious consequences, especially since she is in no mood to submit to any person and since all she has for counsellors are the sylphs” (Kinsley, 5). Unlike Eve, Belinda has no reason to be worshipped, but she ends up becoming the poem’s goddess. Belinda also becomes the worship of many of her peers and even the effectuation of some of them as well mainly the Baron. Because of Belinda’s god like status and indescribable beauty, this led to the Baron taking a lock of the goddess’s hair.
Her lock of hair becomes the vanity of Belinda and led to the commotion in Pope’s poem. Just likes Eve’s apple, Belinda’s lock of hair, though not important, is given great importance in this certain event (Kinsley, 112). Using the mock-epic, Pope needed to make the lock of hair important to satire the idea of an epic and therefore made Belinda into some sort of benevolent being. Giving Belinda a god like status made her lock of hair even more so important. Pope mocks the idea of a god by using Belinda. Instead of making a god benevolent as seen in epics, he does the opposite with Belinda in his mock epic.
Sadly, Belinda is just being what a high class person should be and how that culture perceived them. During Pope’s time many high class women were worshipped with praise. By making Belinda into the god and hero, Pope satirizes the idea of a god and hero; and by my making the object of epics equal to things that hold very little importance. The mock-epic form is used to ridicule the epic and also making the unimportant important. Humans are made to be gods, me and woman praise each other even with effectuation, and small items such as hair becomes the focus point of Pope’s whole poem.
Pope forms his mock epic by using the epic form while ridiculing his culture and social circle. Work Cited Hunt, John Dixon. Pope: The Rape of the Lock; a Casebook. Nashville: Aurora, 1970. Kinsley, William. Contexts II: The Rape of the Lock. Connecticut: Archon Books, 1979. Pope, Alexander. “The Rape of the Lock: An Heroi-Comical” Greenblatt, Stephen Jay, and Meyer Howard Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature,. New York: Norton, 2006. Rousseau, G. S. , and Alexander Pope. The Rape of the Lock: a Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969.