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The Rape of the Lock

Pope's portrayal of Belinda and her society in 'The Rape of the Lock'

This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And mid'st the Stars inscribe Belinda's Name!

In 'The Rape of the Lock' Alexander Pope (1688-1744) employs a mock-epic style to satirise the 'beau-monde' (fashionable world, society of the elite) of eighteenth century England. The richness of the poem, however, reveals more than a straightforward satirical attack. Alongside the criticism we can detect Pope's fascination with, and perhaps admiration for, Belinda and the society in which she moves. Pope himself was not part of the 'beau-monde'. He knew the families on which the poem is based but his own parents, though probably comfortably off, were not so rich or of the class one would have to be in to move in Belinda's circle. He associated with learned men and poets, and there can have been little common ground between the company he kept at Will's Coffee House and those who frequented Hampton Court.

The incident at the centUse of the Mock-epic Style in The Rape of the Lock "The triumph of the Baron's rape is in exactly the same high language as it would be if he were Hector." In The Rape of the Lock, Pope uses the mock-epic style to satirise the seriousness with which a trivial misdemeanour (the theft of a few strands of hair) and the ways of gender polarised society can be blown beyond all sense of proportion.

Thus the male mentality, through the Baron, is portrayed as lacking depth or personality beyond that required to achieve its ends; men objectify and devise "strategems" (4,120) to conquer their female obsessions; they are "victor[s]" (4,162) who self-importantly congratulate themselves as meriting "wreaths of triumph" (4,161) when they have seized what they desire. The Baron claims that the "glorious prize" is his in perpetuity, whilst many conditions which will never be fulfilled ("while fish in streams, or birds delight in air" 4,163) remain unfulfilled. In this satirising of the epic mould such trivial occurrences are substituted in place of truly fantastic possibilitiesre of the poem is the Baron's theft of a lock of hair and http://www.enotes.com/alexander-pope/q-and-a/consider-rape-lock-representative-mock-heroic-poem-144957 Pope's The Rape of the Lock is mock heroic, as well as mock epic, since it is divided into cantos and is long enough to be reminiscent of an epic.  The adjective "mock" means imitation, fake.  The poem presents trivial occurrences as if they are epic. Some of the parallels between the poem and epics follow:

* The hero of the poem is Belinda 
* The preparing for battle, the arming of the warrior, is Belinda putting on her makeup, etc. * The battle is the game of cards
* The "rape" or injustice or evil deed is the cutting off of the lock of hair * The supernatural components are the sylphs and gnomes
The poem even begins with an invocation to the Muse to aid in the story telling, as ancient epics do.  Pope uses this mock heroic device to ridicule and poke fun at social manners and human behavior. http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=aim.026.0071a

The Personality of Belinda's Baron: Pope's ‘The Rape of the Lock’ Jeffrey Meyers, Ph.D.
Critics' concern with “The Rape of the Lock's” classical sources, epic machinery, revised versions, brilliant technique and charming heroine have left the rash Baron largely unattended. Both the rhetoric and the tone with which Pope portrays the nobleman suggest that his strange actions are a radical departure from the accepted norms of rational society. This essay proposes a psychological explanation of the Baron's unseemly conduct and clarifies his obscure behavior. Pope himself asks a central question of the poem in the opening lines: Say what strange motive, Goddess, could compel

A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
The reason is twofold. It is clear that the Baron is...
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