What is the supernatural machinery in "The Rape of the Lock"? "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope

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As in the Iliad, the supernatural has a part to play in this mock-epic poem. In the Iliad,it is gods and goddesses who interact with and help their favorites, such as Achilles. In The Rape of the Lock, Belinda is watched over not by a god or goddess...

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As in the Iliad, the supernatural has a part to play in this mock-epic poem. In the Iliad,it is gods and goddesses who interact with and help their favorites, such as Achilles. In The Rape of the Lock, Belinda is watched over not by a god or goddess but by a guardian spirit, Ariel, who tries to warn her of coming danger and who appoints a host of sylphs to protect her. Later, Umbriel takes over from Ariel, but neither spirit is able to save her from losing a lock of her hair.

Having worried spirits trying to protect Belinda from the fate of having a lock of her hair cut by an admirer highlights how silly Belinda's "plight" is. The truly heroic warriors of ancient Greece and Troy needed divine protection and guidance, as their lives were at stake, but Belinda is not going to die or even suffer any pain or permanent damage from losing some hair. She hardly needs to be hovered over by sylphs and worried spirits.

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Since Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" is a mock epic, the poet includes supernatural machinery in this poem, but parodies it by having the beautiful women return to the elements from which they came as anything but the elevated creatures such as the gods and angels that true epics employ.

The violent tempered women, or termagants, return as salamanders, or spirit of the fire; the women of pleasing dispositions return as nymphs, or water spirits; prudish women become gnomes, or earth spirits;  coquettes, or light-hearted women comes as sylphs, or spirits of the air.

It is in their occupations that Pope employs his satire, too.  The sylphs, for example, protect the chaste maidens from falling victim to the "treacherous friends" of the male sex. While the gnomes fill the minds of young maidens with foolish ideas, teaching them to ogle the men and pretend to blush, the sylphs safely guide the maidens through all the dangers.

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