Dunciad: Mock Epic and Parallels to Rape of the Lock (Another Satire)

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  • Topic: Epic poetry, Alexander Pope, The Dunciad
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The Dunciad: A Mock Epic?
Honors English

The fourth book of the Dunciad describes the fall and slow death of the English society that once taught him all the things he knew. He lashes out at his critics, accusers, and nay Sayers in his allegorical poem. It symbolizes a mock epic because of the elaborate use of words, calling on inspiration from a higher force, and using his work not so much to tell a story, but to point out the faults of a social order that can't or chooses not to see what they're really doing.

It opens with:
"Yet, yet a moment, one dim ray of light Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!" [Line 1, A.P.] "Suspend a while your force inertly strong, Then take at once the Poet, and the song." [Line 7, A.P.]

In tradition of the epic, Alexander calls for the aide of an outside power. He doesn't follow the rules completely, and replaces the muse with Chaos and Night, but does this only to enforce what he's trying to do with his point and gives you a picture of where he's going next. In epics, there's always a battle or a scene that is brazenly described, adding drama, making it a little more important and draws the reader in. When Alexander Pope describes the room as the educators stand before the Goddess, and the scene where Dullness triumphs over everything that breathes life into human creativity, he makes it a point to describe each scene as a play-by-play battle in itself. An advocate of the empress rising to speak is now a ghost that is a force to be reckoned with. "When lo! A spectator rose, whose index hand/ held forth the virtue of the dreadful wand;/ his beavered brow a birchened garland wears/ dropping with infants blood and mothers tears/[line 139, A.P.] "All flesh is humbled, Westminster's bold race/ Shrink and confess the Genius of the place." [Line 145, A.P.)

He uses epic form not so much to make fun of the style but in it he's able to highlight the idiocies...
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