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

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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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