What is the role of fate in "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope?

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teachersage | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The Rape of the Lock, a mock-epic modeled on the Iliad, shares with its model the importance of fate. In the Iliad, fate or what has been pre-determined, is more important that even the will of the gods. In The Rape of the Lock, humans are described as "blind" (III, 101) to fate, which in the end, as in the Iliad, decides what happens to us. We also learn in Canto III that "fate urged the shears" (l.151) that cut the lock and later, in Canto V, "Fate and Jove," (l.2) prevent the Baron from returning the lock. Fate or "heaven," (V, ) also decrees that the lock has great value (l.111-12). Thus we see that fate blinds Belinda to what will occur, determines that the lock will be cut, prevents the return of the lock and guarantees its worth. Human agency is diminished: events must unfold as they do. This poem, based on a real incident in which Lord Petre took a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, is poking fun at the triviality of the event: yes, it was "fated" to happen, and now, perhaps, the main players should get over it. 

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Fate plays a major role in The Rape of the Lock.  Early on in the poem, Fate hides the specific details of the "dire disaster" (II, 103-104).  Then after the card game, Fate is once again mentioned as having a major role in the outcome of future events:

 "Oh thoughtless Mortals! ever blind to Fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate!
Sudden these Honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this Victorious Day."(III, 101-104)

Finally after the deed is done and the Baron is congratulating himself, the narrator returns to comment:

What Time wou'd spare, from Steel receives its date,
And Monuments, like Men, submit to Fate!

Fate inThe Rape of the Lockis absolute and inescapable, bending the actions of the characters to influence the outcome of events.


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