The Rape of the Lock

by Alexander Pope
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Perspective is the ability to see things in proper proportion to each other and in terms of real importance. How is perspective treated in The Rape of the Lock?

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Perspective is of course a key theme of this famous mock epic, as Pope pokes fun at those involved in a real historical event, that he chose to base this poem on. The fact that this poem is a mock epic, which playfully treats an insignificant and trifling event as though it were an epic, indicates that perspective, and its lack, is a concern of this poem. Consider the way in which the opening couplet draws attention to this:

What dire offence from amorous causes springs,

What mighty contests rise from trivial things...

It is the way in whch complete lack of perspective gives rise to "dire offence" and "mighty contests" that is at the heart of this poem. To corroborate this point, consider how Belinda reacts to the "rape" of her lock and the characteristics of mock epic that are present in the description:

Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes,

And screams of horror rend th'affrighted skies.

Not louder shrieks to pitying Heaven are cast,

When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;

Or when rich china vessels fallen from high,

In glittering dust, and painted fragments lie!

The exaggeration is clear in the way that lightnign emerges from her eyes and her shrieks of agony rend the heavens all because the Baron has cut one tiny curl from her head. Perspective, and its lack, is therefore the key concern of this brilliant and hilarious mock epic.

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