Explain how Pope’s The Rape of the Lock does not fit the Juvenalian mode of satire.

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“The Rape of the Lock” is a better example of Horatian satire than it is of Juvenalian satire. Juvenalian satire is a harsher form of satire, which treats a subject with contempt and often condemns a behavior prevalent in society.  Writers who write Juvenalian satire are indignant about something that is happening in their society, and they want the reader to react this way, also.  Horatian satire, on the other hand, pokes fun at a subject without an outright condemnation.  It is witty without being judgmental, expecting the reader to recognize the folly being satirized without condemning or attacking. 

In “The Rape of the Lock,” the author is poking fun at many different subjects:  vanity, pride, and ego are among these subjects.  The author does not poke fun in a bitter, condemning way, but instead chooses a trivial subject and contrasts it with a serious subject, making the trivial seem important.  A good example of this is the fact that Pope is talking about cutting off a lock of someone’s hair, but he raises this to the seriousness of all out war.  “Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace/A two-edged weapon from her shining case/So ladies in romance assist their knight/Present the spear and arm him for the fight” (lines 127-130).  In contrast to a Juvenalian satire, such as “A Modest Proposal,” this satire is gentle and humorous rather than sarcastic. 

This gentle humor is also present when the author presents a tongue in cheek look at Belinda getting dressed.  The everyday act of getting dressed is portrayed as a religious act.  “The inferior priestess, at her altar’s side/ Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride” (128-129).  The author is making fun of how seriously women take putting on clothes and makeup, but he is doing it in a humorous way, designed to make women laugh at themselves.  The satire present in "The Rape of the Lock” is definitely not Juvenalian because it is respectful while still making the reader laugh.

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The Rape of the Lock

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