The Rape of The Lock: Epic Poem - Summary & Analysis

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      The Rape of The Lock is a mock-heroic poem (in five cantos published in 1714) of great power. Here Pope satirizes the trivial matter of snipping a lock of hair from the head of Miss Arabella Fermor by Lord Petre in a grand heroic style.

      The society darling Belinda wakes at noon and after elaborate toilet sails up the Thames to Hampton Court. Belinda flirts with all the gentlemen aboard the ship and plays the fashionable game of ombre. As Belinda pours coffee, the baron from behind cuts off a lock of the hair. Belinda cries and the ladies decide to take stem measures against the men. Tossing snuff at the Baron's nose, Belinda causes him to sneeze. At the point of a hairpin, he is ordered to return the lock.

The Rape of The Lock
The Rape of The Lock

Critical Analysis

      Dr. Johnson called the poem "the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions". Pope satirizes the fashions and follies of society. The didactic success of the poem is achieved by the big gap between the silliness of the episode and the deadly seriousness with which its participants regard it. The mock-heroic style brings the whole quarrel into absurdity. The delicate manner and gay wit are its principal charms.

      Pope imitates the maximum elements of epic poetry - its invocation, games, battle, journey similes and descriptions, and supernatural machinery-sylphs and gnomes. The contrast between the grand style and the silly matter produces irony. The sylphs and gnomes give delicacy to the poem. Indeed, the satire is full of delicate fancy and humor. Here the imaginative fervor of Pope is in evidence in his nature descriptions.

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