The Rape of the Lock

The Rape of the Lock
Alexander Pope
Pope and His Times
Pope suffered
prejudices due to his
Ill health, tuberculosis,
asthma, headaches,
stunted growth,
Many characterized
Pope as ill-tempered,
critical and judgmental
Pope and His Times
Pope was self-taught “did
nothing but read and write”
Was friends with Swift and John
Gay (famous poet)
By most accounts, Pope was a
misogynist (so were most other
men during the period)
During Popes time, many believed
that women were only slightly
Whether or not women had souls
was a serious topic of conversation
Pope and His Times
During the 18th century,
much traditional thinking
was being challenged
Pope identified the poem
as a: heroi-comical poem
Today known as a mockepic (a form of satire)
Source of the Poem
Pope based the poem on
real events between the
noble Petre and Fermor
families (a Petre family
member cut a lock of hair
from a Fermor lady)
Pope wrote the poem to
satirize the absurdity and
silliness of the feud that
resulted from the event
Heroic and Mock Heroic
The fateful sea voyage
Invocation of the muse
Division of the poem into “books” or
Descriptions of soldiers and preparations
for battle
Descriptions of heroic deeds
Participation of deities and spirits in the
action of the story
Heroic and Mock Heroic
Presentation of scenes from the underworld
High formal diction and language
Religious or spiritual rituals
Ascension of the dead hero into the heavens
Story begins in medias res
While extended similes in an epic elevate the
story—in a mock epic they trivialize the elements
of the story
Poetic Form, Figures of Speech,
and Verse
The Rape of the Lock is written in heroic
couplets (Chaucer’s poetic form)
Pairs of rhyming lines in iambic pentameter
The main figure of speech is hyperbole
Pope exaggerates for ridicule and humor
Other figures of speech include:
personification, anaphora, alliteration, and
extended similes, antithesis
Antithesis and Anaphora
Antithesis: Placing side by side, and in
similar grammatical structures, strongly
contrasting words, clauses sentences, or
Ex: Accidentally on purpose. Agree to
Anaphora: The repetition of sequences of
words at the beginning of neighboring
clauses—lending emphasis
Ex: In time we will move. In time we will
advance and in time we will prevail.
Question for Thought
Although mock-heroic
poems are fun and
humorous, they also
serve as significant
commentary on human
behaviors, tendencies,
flaws and more
What do you think is the
central message of the
A Few Allusions to Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Satan whispers a
dream in Eve’s ear
Eve fixates on her
image in a pool of
Satan suffers in a lake
of burning sulfur
The Rape of the Lock
Ariel whispers to
Belinda about pride
and vanity
Belinda worships her
own reflection in a
Ariel threatens the
sylphs with burning
Questions for Discussion
1. Select two mock-heroic elements from
the poem and explain their significance
2. Find one example of irony in the poem
and explain its purpose and significance
3. Discuss the distinctive elements of
Pope’s writing style
4. Find two similes or metaphors and
explain how they work well as mockheroic elements
Canto 1
 Belinda awakes from sleeping
 The dream of Belinda
 Belinda prepares for the day’s
social activities
Canto 2
The travel on the Thames river
The prayer of the young adventurer Baron
The Sylphs’ mission to “tend the Fair”—to
protect Belinda
Brillante—the earrings
Chrispissa—the locks
Ariel—Shock, Belinda’s lapdog
Momentilla—the watch
fifty chosen Sylphs—the petticoat
Canto 3
The game of cards—ombre
The rape of the lock
Canto 4
Belinda’s Ill-Natured mood and
Affection after the loss of the lock
Umbriel, the earthy gnome,
descends to the Cave of Spleen
Thalestris’ speech rouses the rage
of Belinda
Sir Plume bids in vain the payment
of the lock
Canto 5
Clarissa’s speech
The battle of belles and beaux
The lock rises to the heaven and
becomes a star
Writing Style
Mock epic
Epic, the Characteristics
A long narrative poem
Elevated, grand style
Great heroes and heroines
The setting is vast in
geographical range
Supernatural power
Epic Conventions
The theme is usually the adventure
of a hero or a war.
Invocate the Muse’s aid. (Calliope)
Ask epic question(s).
Begin with in medias res.
Use epithets and similes.
Gods’ interference in human affairs.
Mock Epic
A work designed to ridicule attitudes,
style, or subject matter by handling
either an elevated subject in a trivial
manner or a low subject with mock
dignity (Karl 30).
Renders a trivial subject ridiculous by
treating it with the elaborate (Karl 31).
Compare small things with something
Epic/ Mock Epic
Traditional Epic
The Rape of the Lock
“ Say what strange
Invoke the aid of
motive, Goddess!
the muse: Calliope
Could compel” (1. 7)
Begin with in
medias res
Spirits (Sylphs,
Gods are involved Gnomes, Nymphs…)
are involved
The Epic Question
1 What dire offense from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
“Among the
gods, who
brought this
quarrel on?”
7 Say what strange motive, Goddess! Could compel
A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle?
Oh, say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?
In tasks so bold can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?
Homeric Simile
“Achilles, fast in
battle as a lion.”
“Quick as her eyes” (2. 10),
“Bright as the sun” (2. 13),
“Hera, whose
“Shrink his thin essence
arms are white as like a riveled flower” (2.
“And falls like thunder on
the prostrate Ace” (3. 98).
Homeric Epithet
“Fair nymphs, and welldress'd youths around her
shone” (2. 5)
“The long-contended
honours of her head”
“Why round our coaches
crowd the white-glov'd
beaux?” (5. 13).
Heroic couplet
Rhymed in every two lines.
Iambic pentameter
Ten syllables in each line
Alternate with stressed and
unstressed syllables
Mock Epic
Journey to the
The Cave of Spleen (ill
nature of female
hypochondriacs) (4. 1)
Sacrifice offering to gods Baron sacrifices his
before an important war former love-token. (2.35)
or journey
Mock Epic
Cliches, frowns and angry
glances, snuff and bodkin.
“So spoke the dame, “ (5. 35).
The card game (Ombre).
Rape of the female
Rape of a lock of hair