Instructor Pam Fowler
13 February 2012
Alexander Pope’s use of the Mock-Epic Conventions in The Rape of the Lock
Many authors use mock-epic conventions when writing poetry. Mock-epic convention, by definition, is a type of satire that treats petty human occurrences as if they were extraordinary or heroic. Mock-epics often will be parodies of serious classical epics, but in a more humorous way. Alexander Pope’s mock-epic poem, The Rape of the Lock, is one of the best known examples of the use of characteristics of epic conventions and the use of gods and goddess from Greek mythology. Pope’s poem, The Rape of the Lock, written in 1712 to 1717 is a heroi-classical poem, which takes place in London , and validates societies failure to laugh at things in life that do not matter, such as, a lock of hair. This poem was written and revised several time, each time more specific parallels to the classical epics. There are several precise characteristics that epic conventions will convey. The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics states, that an “Epic often focuses on a hero, sometimes semi-divine, who performs difficult and virtuous deeds; it frequently involves the interaction between humans and gods” (1). Pope refers to the Iliad and the Odyssey in, The Rape of the Lock, which shows his focus on human interaction with the gods. Characteristics of epic conventions include: an invocation to a muse; division of the poem into books or cantos; description of a battle; description of heroic deeds; an account of a sea voyage; participation of machinery or spirits and a presentation of an underworld. Pope include all of these characteristics in this satirical parody of social vanity and how high society over exaggerates small trivial things that happen in there lives. Pope starts, The Rape of the Lock, naming his good friend, John Caryll, as the muse. John Caryll asked Pope to write a story that would poke...
Cited: Damrosch, David., David L. Pike. The Longman Anthology of World Literature.
Ed. David Damrosch.Compact edition. United States: Longman, 2007. Print.
“Epic.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition(2011): 1. Literary Reference
Center. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
“Epic.” The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton University
Press, 1993. Credo Reference. Web. 11 February 2012.
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