English Literature » Notes » The Rape of the Lock – A Mock Epic

The Rape of the Lock – A Mock Epic

Alexander Pope‘s The Rape of the Lock as mock epic. An epic, according to Aristotle, is the tragedy of a conspicuous person, who is involved in adventurous events and meets a tragic fall on account of some error of judgment i.e. hamartia which throws him from prosperity into adversity, however, his death is not essential. So, the subject matter of an epic is grand and that’s why it is written in bombastic language and heroic couplet. Its style, too, is grand.

A mock-epic is a satire of an epic. It shows us that even a trivial subject can also be treated on epical scale. The subject of “The Rape of the Lock” is trivial – a love dispute between a lady ad a gentleman. Lord Byron proposes Belinda who rejects his proposal. Baron cuts one of her beautiful looks. This trivial theme has been given epical treatment as if it were some grave event of paramount importance.

The style of the poet is mock-heroic. He employs bombastic and showy diction for thoughts and ideas which are not really grand – pompous expression for low action – for example, the game of Ombre had been described as a war of nerves, the table has been termed as the battlefield, the dispersed cards have been dubbed as routed army etc.

Similarly, the process of Belinda’s make–up has been termed s adoration and the sacred rites of priced. Belinda is called ‘inferior priestess’ and her toilet an ‘alter’ etc.

The poet has employed the epical method to heighten the effect i.e. the great has been made look small and vice versa. The introduction of the aerial machinery is used for heightening of effect. Belinda is an ordinary fashionable girl, but she has been shown being protected by thousands of spirits. The trivial game of Ombre has been compared with a grave war of nerves. The ordinary flight between the supports of Belinda and those of Peter has been compared with the fatal war between gods and goddesses and their hair pins, fans, etc. with which they fought have been termed as ‘deadly weapons’, spears, etc. The grief of Belinda at the loss of the lock has been compared with the shock at the death of a husband or a lapdog or at the breakage of a China vessel. Thus the poet raises a lapdog to the level of a husband or reduces a husband to the level of a lapdog.

The poet has also employed epical and heroic images, which is one of the prerequisites of a mock-epic. For example, Belinda has been named as ‘the fairest of mortals’, the ‘bright fair’. The cards have been called ‘parti-coloured troops’. The pair of scissors has been termed as a two-edged ‘weapon’, ‘little engine’, ‘forfex’, ‘fatal engine’, etc.

Belinda’s dreams have been called mystic vision. The air-pins have been compared with ‘deadly weapons’ and ‘deadly spears’ etc. Belinda’s eyes have been dubbed as ‘fair suns’.

Humour is one of the prerequisites of a mock-epic and the poem is full of humour and its humour is pleasing as compared to Swift’s humour.

Moral is an essential part of a mock-epic. This poem is full of morals from the beginning till the end. However, the speeches of Belinda and Clarissa are especially soaked in moral. Belinda repents that she would have been ten times happier if she had indulged herself in the pursuits of the fashionable circle. So, the more a woman exposes herself and her beauty, the more her chastity is in danger.

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