The Rape of the Lock

by Alexander Pope

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Describe "The Rape of the Lock" as a mock epic.

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Pope wrote this mock-epic poem at the request of his friend John Caryll to help heal a rift between two prominent Catholic families. In real life, Lord Petre had taken a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair without her permission, causing a quarrel that blew out of proportion.

The poem is a mock epic because it uses the epic form, a genre meant for serious subjects, such as the Trojan war in Homer's Iliad, and applies it to such a trivial issue as the loss of a lock of hair. The humor comes in the grandiose and overblown way this hair theft is described, complete with lamentations, exclamations, and the lock of hair ascending to the moon at the end of the poem. Pope populated his mock-epic world with sylphs and made as much of Belinda's petticoat as Homer did of Achilles's shield.

Pope wanted to use humor to heal an argument but also to show that the aristocrats and leaders of his day lacked the heroism of figures from classical literature. By poking gentle fun at them, he hoped to inspire them to worry about more important subjects than card-playing, hair, and flirtations.

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A mock epic is a parody which mocks (makes fun of) classic characteristics of a stereotypical epic. This happens when the text pokes fun at the idea of an epic hero or heroic literature. Typically, the mock epic turns the classical understanding of an epic upon its head by making the action of the text so outlandish that it becomes absurd.

Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" is a mock epic- basically, Pope admits this in the full title of the poem: "The Rape of the Lock: An Heroi-Comical Poem."

This poems can be simply detailed as a mock epic based upon the fact that the object of desire is not a noble woman, a queen, even a peasant. Instead, the object of desire is hair. The Baron upon the boat with Belinda becomes infatuated with Belinda's locks. Not only does he desire them, he has built an alter to ask for success in his ability to possess the locks.

The fact that a simple Baron desires a lock of hair makes the poem a mock epic.

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