The Rape of the Lock

by Alexander Pope

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Compare and contrast the style of Pope in The Rape of the Lock with the style of Swift in Gulliver's Travels as they criticize the world around them.

Pope's style is deliberately epic and grandiose, through the use of heroic couplets and antique subject matter. This serves to emphasise both the importance of the trivial events that Pope is describing but also how ridiculous such petty concerns are when compared to the epic world of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Swift's Gulliver's Travels uses parody to emphasise the satire in this work. By using parody, Gulliver's Travels creates a sense that this text is satires on other texts rather than just a description of a world where horses can be made into glue or men with their heads downwards are considered superior beings.

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Both of these works are famous for their satirical approach to satire, and stylistically how these works achieve this purpose is worthy of examination. In The Rape of the Lock, Pope uses heroic couplets and epic conventions to deliberately compare the actions of this poem with the epics of ancient Greece and Rome, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. The impact of this is to highlight both the triviality of the world which Pope is satirising, but also, paradoxically, the way such events as the "rape of the lock" could also be considered to be very important. The triviality is perhaps best shown through the lengthy descriptions of Belinda as she prepares herself for the social event. The poem's lengthy descriptions of her grooming rituals compares these to a warrior preparing himself to battle, with Belinda's putting on of her make up compared to a soldier's donning of armour:

From each she nicely culls with curious toil,

And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil.

Such a juxtaposition of style and content only serves to emphasise the satire and heighten the reader's appreciation of this curious world where, as Pope describes it "at every word a reputation dies." The reader is presented with a world where superficial appearances are incredibly important.

In Gulliver's Travels, the satire is based around the way in which this text functions allegorically. Swift deliberately mirrors the historical events of his day in the adventures that Gulliver experiences. For example, the controversy between the Big Enders and Little Enders is a direct parallel of the situation between the Protestants and Catholics that resulted in various armed conflicts at the time. Lilliput and Blefuscu stand respectively for England and France which were of course old enemies, and the character of Treasurer Flimnap is meant to stand for the Whig leader, Sir Robert Walpole. Such an allegorical reading greatly emphasises the satire of this work and would have been appreciated massively by Swift's original audience.

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