Analysis of The Rape of the Lock

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Analysis of The Rape of the Lock

The destruction of the grand style of the epic is just what Pope

was after in his mock epic, "The Rape of the Lock." Pope had no such

universal goal, or moral pronouncements to make as did Milton. His purpose

was merely to expose the life of the nobility of his time. While Milton

chose blank verse to express the immensity of the landscape of his epic,

Pope chose to utilize the heroic couplet to trivialize this grandeur.

Pope's quick wit bounces the reader along his detailed description of his

parlor-room epic. His content is purposefully trivial, his scope

purposefully thin, his style purposefully light-hearted, and therefore his

choice of form purposefully geared toward the smooth, natural rhythm of the

heroic couplet. The caesura, the end-stopped lines, and the perfect rhymes

lend the exact amount of manners and gaiety to his work.

Writing for a society that values appearances and social

frivolities, he uses these various modes of behavior to call attention to

the behavior itself. Pope compares and contrasts. He places significant

life factors (i.e., survival, death, etc.) side by side with the trivial

(although not to Belinda and her friends: love letters, accessories).

Although Pope is definitely pointing to the "lightness" of the social life

of the privileged, he also recognizes their sincerity in attempting to be

polite and well-mannered and pretend to recognize where the true values lie.

Pope satirizes female vanity. He wrote the poem at the request of

his friend, John Caryll, in an effort to make peace between real-life

lovers. The incident of the lock of hair was factual; Pope's intention was

to dilute with humor the ill feelings aroused by the affair. He was, in

fact, putting a minor incident into perspective, and to this end, chose a

mock-heroic form, composing the poem as a "take-off" epic poetry,

particularly the work of Milton. He is inviting the individuals involved

to laugh at themselves, to see how emotion had inflated their response to

what was really an event of no consequence. For the reader, the incident

becomes a statement about human folly, a lesson on female vanity, and a

satire of the rituals of courtship. Perhaps Pope also intended to comment

on the meaningless lives of the upper classes.
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