Cave of Spleen in The Rape of the Lock

Also Read

      Introduction. The Rape of the Lock is a mock-heroic poem with satiric purpose. The Cave of Spleen has a special relevance both in the context of the mock-heroic scheme as well as the satiric intention.

      The relevance of the Cave of Spleen in the mock-heroic structure. The Cave of Spleen is part of the supernatural machinery introduced by Pope into the poem. The visit to the Cave of Spleen occurs after Belinda has lost her favorite lock of hair. It is Umbriel, one of the gnomes, who goes to the Cave of Spleen-which is at the centre of the earth and ruled over by the Goddess of Spleen. An epic convention is adopted here for tlie purpose of mockery, in true mock-heroic style. The heroes and other important characters in a serious epic are often described as undertaking a journey to the underworld. Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid makes such a journey. In that epic, Aeneas carried a golden bough for protection; in this mock-epic Umbriel carries Spleenwort with him. The parody is superb-Spleenwort was a cure for excessive Spleen. The allegorical figures used here constitute a part of the epic convention. The horrors of Hades in the serious epics are here transformed into fantastic and grotesque figures. These figures have contemporary relevance. Thus, the parodic intention of the Cave of Spleen is clear.

      Satiric Significance of the Cave of Spleen. The scene of the Cave of Spleen is almost central to the whole poem: it epitomizes the dominant passion satirized in the poem - Spleen or ill-humor which caused the quarrel between the two families. The episodes of the Cave of Spleen serve simultaneously to mirror and mock.

      The whole passage is a brilliant satire on the flippancy and loose character of the ladies of Pope's time. These ladies were frivolous, artificial and obsessed with sexual desires which were unnaturally repressed.

      The Goddess of Spleen is described as having two hand maids, one of which is Affectation of pale and sickly appearance. The painted faces, assumed lisp, pretended swoons, the languishing airs and habitual sorrowful expression are all characteristics of the fashionable lady of the time, ridiculed with great effect by Pope in this passage through allegory. The passage is a masterly satire against hypocrisy and affectation.

      Sexual Connotations of the Cave of Spleen, should not be missed, especially the lines in which Pope speaks of women who seemed to imagine themselves to be bottles shouting for corks. Apparently; Pope wants to suggest that a mind affected by Spleen is diseased, given to hallucinations and fantasies. Further, he also speaks against the excessive suppression of natural desires in the cause of affected "reputation" and fake "honor."

      Humorous description of female foibles. Not bitterly satiric but pointedly humorous is the description of the gift bag given by the Goddess of Spleen to Umbriel. It is full of sighs, sobs, screams, curses, anger and quarrels, which are the chief weapons of women. So is the bottle, overflowing with tears and soft groans given by the Goddess.

      Conclusion. The Cave of Spleen episode in thus, seen to be integral to the poem. Its relevance in the mock-epic framework is clear; it parodies a serious epic convention for comic and satiric purposes. The episode presents a picture of the artificial and hypocritical nature of the society ladies and at the same time mocks these affectations. This is in keeping with the general satiric purposes of the poem. The whole passage has a dreamy (perhaps, nightmarish) quality which speaks greatly of Pope's artistic and imaginative skill. In this episode, all the sex symbols are gathered as if in dream fantasy, and the Freudian symbols are unmistakable. In this aspect too, the Cave of Spleen episode is relevant to the poem as a whole, for The Rape of the Lock as the title itself suggests, has distinct sexual connotations. In the confused values of the society the poem portrays, virginity is not as important as a favourite lock of hair, and appearance is all that counts. In the context of the "moral" of the poem good sense and good humor are advocated; in other words, the Goddess of Spleen and her gifts are to be painstakingly avoided.

University Questions

What is the parodic intention of the Cave of Spleen?
Comment on the significance of the Cave of Spleen in The Rape of the Lock.

Previous Post Next Post