What is the role of supernatural machinery in The Rape Of The Lock?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The role of supernatural machinery in this mock epic is key. The chief sprite, Ariel, is presented as the commander of the sylphs and other faeries who are trying to work hard to protect Belinda and to prevent fate taking its course. Ariel appears in Canto I in a dream to Belinda, warning her to beware of pride and men, but then again, after Belinda has appeared in society Ariel appears with his army of faeries and tells them to be wary because it is clear something terrible will happen on that day:

This day, black omens threat the brightest fair
That e'er deserved a watchful spirit's care:
Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;
But what, or where, the Fates have wrapp'd in night.

The job of these sylphs and supernatural beings is therefore to do everything they can to prevent calamity by protecting Belinda, and particularly her lock of hair which ends up being cut. Of course, the supernatural machinery in this text is used by Pope to establish his mock epic. The fact that supernatural armies of faeries have to work so hard to prevent such a "calamity" shows that he is poking fun at Belinda and the way that the "rape of the lock" was made into an event of such importance, whereas in reality it was nothing at all. The supernatural machinery is thus used by Pope to reinforce his central message.

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