Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is not studied and admired only because of its style and form, but also for its base content and underlying themes. Pope's ability to manipulate text into mock-heroic form, constructing a flow of satirical description is what makes this poem one of such quality.
The piece was first published in 1712 by the request of Pope's friend, John Caryll. It was to make peace between the Fermors and Petres, two prominent Roman Catholic families at the time. The feud was supposedly caused by an incident at a card game that ended with Lord Petre cutting a lock from the hair of lovely Arabella Fermor. Caryll had hoped that Pope wrote a poem that would sooth the tempers of the two families.
Popes intention was to combine satirical humor with the already existent ill feelings produced by the incident. He was, more or less, putting the minor situation into perspective, hopping all involved could laugh at them selves. To do this, he chose a mock-heroic form and to model the work after an epic poem, possibly mocking Milton's Paradise Lost. Pope's satirical take on the incident continues with his strict line rhyme and meter, which adds to seriousness of the writing style.
Through understanding where Pope is coming from in his over the top style, the reader begins to understand that the piece is a view of the follies of upper class society, relationships, and especially female vanity. The entire poem comments on the current social world, satirizing concerns of women in society.
Pope jokingly describes the main character, Belinda, as if she were a heroin in an epic tale by addressing her as, "Fairest of all Mortals, thou distinguish'd / Cave of a thousand bright inhabitants of air!" (N. 1) He builds this woman up as the character has already done by applying exotic creams and perfumes to herself , which the author describes with much importance. Pope's over exaggeration of Belinda's preparation accomplishes his intended goal of revealing how worthless he believes these duties to be.
It is also necessary to discuss the fact that Pope seems to realize that the extreme vanity is caused by his own gender. If Belinda's preparations are not for her male acquaintances, then why? Speaking through Clarissa, Pope allows the reader to take a step away from satire with a taste...