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Rape Of Lock As Mock Epic

1571 words - 6 pages

RAPE OF LOCK AS A MOCK EPICEPIC:The epic is a narrative poem of supposed divine inspiration treating of a subject of great and momentous importance for mankind, the characters of the story are partly human and partly divine, and the language and style in which the incidents are related are full of elevation and dignity.If a long narrative poem should satisfy all the tests of epic poetry, but if the subject which is celebrated be of a trivial nature, like the cutting off a lock of a woman's hair, which is the story that is related in Pope's "The Rape of the Lock", then such a poem is called a mock-epic. A mock-epic poem is supposed to be the inspiration of a Muse and the language is stilted and grandiose, but the subject is of very frivolous and of commonplace nature.MOCK EPIC:Mock-epic or mock-heroic or heroic-comical terms are applied to literary works in which the epic or heroic tradition is ridiculed.Pope poem satirises a minor incident by comparing it to the epic world of the gods. It was based on an actual incident recounted by Pope's friend, John Caryll. Arabella Fermor and her suitor, Lord Petre, were both from aristocratic recusant Catholic families at a period in England when under such laws as the Test Act, all denominations except Anglicanism suffered legal restrictions and penalties (for example Petre could not take up his place in the House of Lords as a Catholic). Petre, lusting after Arabella, had cut off a lock of her hair without permission, and the consequent argument had created a breach between the two families. Pope, also a Catholic, wrote the poem at the request of friends in an attempt to "comically merge the two." He utilised the character Belinda to represent Arabella and introduced an entire system of "sylphs," or guardian spirits of virgins, a parodised version of the gods and goddesses of conventional epic.Pope's poem uses the traditional high stature of classical epics to emphasise the triviality of the incident. The abduction of Helen of Troy becomes here the theft of a lock of hair; the gods become minute sylphs; the description of Achilles' shield becomes an excursus on one of Belinda's petticoats. He also uses the epic style of invocations, lamentations, exclamations and similes, and in some cases adds parody to imitation by following the framework of actual speeches in Homer's Iliad. Although the poem is humorous at times, Pope keeps a sense that beauty is fragile, and that the loss of a lock of hair touches Belinda deeply. As his introductory letter makes clear, women in that period were essentially supposed to be decorative rather than rational, and the loss of beauty was a serious matter."The New Star," Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for The Rape of the LockThe humour of the poem comes from the storm in a teacup of pride being couched within the elaborate, formal verbal structure of an epic poem. It is a satire on the contemporary society which showcases the lifestyle led by some people of that age. Pope...

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