The "Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope is what is known as a "mock heroic" epic, in that it follows many of the conventions of epic poetry while simultaneously satirizing epic as a genre. The term "rape" is used by Pope in a manner reflecting its Latin meaning. The verb "rapere" in Latin means "to seize" and in Pope's period did not have the primarily sexual connotations it does in twenty-first century English. Thus the title refers to seizing a lock of hair.
The poem is written in heroic couplets, i.e., pairs of lines in iambic pentameter rhyming AA BB CC, and so on. The lines are generally end-stopped and metrically regular.
The narrative is based on a story that Pope heard from his friend John Caryll about Lord Petre, a suitor of Arabella Fermor, a notably beautiful woman. Petre cut off a lock of Arabella's hair without her permission, something that so offended Arabella that she dissolved their engagement.
In the first canto, Belinda dreams about Ariel and sylphs warning her about the dangers that lurk before her. Ariel states that he and the sylphs will attempt to guard her from the perils that will befall her. As Ariel is continuing to expand on this topic, Belinda's dog, Shock, wakes her up. She then goes to her dressing table and, with the help of her maid, begins the elaborate process of arranging her hair and adorning herself.