Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. ENGL 203 Dr. Fike. Summary. Swift: Surface vs. depth The role of reason Pope: Surface vs. depth Decorum Swift & Pope: Juvenalian: Swift Horatian: Pope. More Summary. “Modest” Role of reason GT Surface > depth Rape Decorum (false
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Pope’s The Rape of the Lock ENGL 203 Dr. Fike
Summary • Swift: • Surface vs. depth • The role of reason • Pope: • Surface vs. depth • Decorum • Swift & Pope: • Juvenalian: Swift • Horatian: Pope
More Summary “Modest” Role of reason GT Surface > depth Rape Decorum (false values)
Review Questions • What did you learn about the following things in “A Modest Proposal”? • Surface vs. depth • The role of reason • persona:_______::Swift:______
Epic • H&H: “A long narrative poem in elevated style presenting characters of high position in adventures forming an organic whole through their relation to a central heroic figure and through their development of episodes important to the history of a nation or race.”
Characteristics of an Epic • The hero has great stature. • The setting is vast. • Action = deeds that require courage and produce valor. • The supernatural is present. • Invocation of the muse. • The epic starts in medias res (Latin, in the middle of things). • Division into books and cantos. • Catalogs. • Epic/Homeric similes. • Epic games.
Mock Epic/Mock Heroic • H&H: “Terms for a literary form that burlesques the epic by treating a trivial subject in the ‘grand style’ or uses the epic formulas to make a trivial subject ridiculous by ludicrously overstating it. Usually, the characteristics of the classical epic are employed,” etc.
EPIC The hero has great stature. The setting is vast. Action = deeds that require courage and produce valor. The supernatural is present. Invocation of the muse. The epic starts in medias res and uses retrospective narration. Division into books and cantos. Catalogs Epic/Homeric similes. Pope’s MOCK EPIC Epic vs. Mock Epic
EPIC The hero has great stature. The setting is vast. Action = deeds that require courage and produce valor. The supernatural is present. Invocation of the muse. The epic starts in medias res and uses retrospective narration. Division into books and cantos. Catalogs (e.g., of deaths) Epic/Homeric similes. MOCK EPIC The hero is a vain female. The setting is a party. A guy cuts her hair off. Gnomes and sylphs are diminutive. John Caryll was part of Pope’s inspiration. Poem starts at the beginning of the action. Division into cantos. Catalogs of trivial things. Extended similes trivialize rather than elevate. Epic vs. Mock Epic
Epic stratagem (e.g., the Trojan horse) Descent into the underworld Epic battle Weapons A pinch of snuff Cave of Spleen Card game Hairpin, scissors, snuff Other Mockery
Epic Simile …angel forms, who lay entranc'd Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades High over-arch'd embow'r; or scatter'd sedge Afloat, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd Hath vex'd the Red-Sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew Busiris and his Memphian chivalry, While with perfidious hatred they pursu'd The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld From the safe shore their floating carcases And broken chariot-wheels: so thick bestrown, Abject and lost, lay these, covering the flood, Under amazement of their hideous change. Milton, PL 1.301-13
Example of Epic Simile As when the shudder of the west wind suddenly rising scatters across the water, and the water darkens beneath it, so darkening were settled the ranks of Achaians and Trojans in the plain. --Homer’s Iliad • A = what the fallen angels did; what the two armies did • B = what the leaves did; wind on the water
Epic Simile • You compare “A” in your text to “B” outside the text. But “B” gets more description than “A” does. • Thus H&H: “The epic simile differs from an ordinary simile in being more involved and ornate, in a conscious imitation of the Homeric manner. The vehicle [i.e., the illustration] is developed into an independent aesthetic object, an image that for the moment upstages the tenor [i.e., the subject] with which it is compared.”
The Point • When you use a high style and a poetic form associated with classical heroes, the result is that you undercut the characters in your poem. • Example of a guy from my section of this class a few years ago.
An Extended Simile in a Mock Epic • V.45ff.: Re. the debate between Thalestris and Clarissa So when bold Homer makes the gods engage, And heavenly breasts with human passions rage; ’Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms; And all Olympus rings with loud alarms. Jove’s thunder roars, heaven trembles all around; Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound; Earth shakes her nodding towers, the ground gives way; And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!
The Point • An epic poet gives us characters (heroes, gods) who are larger than life. • Pope, in his mock epic, gives us a female main character who fixates on a trivial situation connected to diminutive supernatural figures who relate to negative human characteristics. • Thus the grandeur of epic—this includes its similes and the roles played by the gods—underscores the triviality and emptiness of the situation that Pope is describing. • This is all good fun, but there is also serious commentary afoot—the poem will delight and teach, as Sidney says, and virtue may be the result.
Two-Minute Writing Exercise • What do you think the poem is trying to teach? What is the “moral” of the story?
Questions for Small Group Work • What is the function of Ariel, the sylphs, and the gnomes? What's going on in the card game in Canto III? • What does the language at I.121-48 suggest about Belinda? What is the poet saying about virtue and especially about the way it gets trivialized? • How is chastity portrayed? See II.105-06, III.157-60, and IV.162-63. • Do you find any allusions to Paradise Lost in II.123-42? Anywhere else? • What does Thalestris represent? See IV.89ff. • What does Clarissa represent? See V.9ff.
What is the function of Ariel, the sylphs, and the gnomes? Card game? • The sylphs’ purpose is not just to keep Belinda a virgin but also to keep her a coquette, a woman who uses her charm and beauty to appeal to men but who never lets anyone touch her. See II.9-12. • The gnomes’ purpose is to turn Belinda into a prude. See I.79-82 • Card game: III.143ff. Belinda wins the game, but she has feelings for the Baron. See especially III.127-46.
What does the language at I.121-48 suggest about Belinda? • Belinda represents the values desired in marriage in the 18th century: beauty > virtue; surface > depth. Decorum: Pope is criticizing concern with superficial appearance. • Her beauty is described as being divine. • References to the sun: As the sun is central to the solar system, so Belinda is the center of the party. Other sun references: I.13-14, 144; II.13-14; III.155-56; V.145-47. • Another suggestion of her divinity: “Let Spades be Trump! and Trumps they were” (III.46).
How is chastity portrayed? • II.105-06 • III.157-60 • IV.162-63 • POINT: Chastity is like china: delicate, fragile, easily broken, irreparable • John Gay: “She who before was highest priz’d, / Is for a crack or flaw despis’d.” • George Herbert: “A woman and a glass are ever in danger.”
Do you find any allusions to Paradise Lost? • I.19ff.: Satan whispers a dream into Eve’s ear. Ariel whispers a dream of pride and vanity in Belinda’s ear. • I.125-26: Belinda worships her own reflection in the mirror. Eve’s first act is to fixate on her image in a pool of water. • II.123-42: Satan and his fallen cronies suffer in a lake of burning sulphur. Ariel threatens the sylphs with a sea of burning chocolate. • II.123-42: Satan journeys through Chaos to Earth. The sylphs descend “Orb in Orb” around Belinda, awaiting “the birth of fate.” • III.143-46: The angels withdraw after the fall. Ariel “with a sigh retired” after Belinda’s heart beats for the Baron. Falling in love is like the Fall. The sylphs merge the action of Satan and the good angels. • III.152, note. • IV.9: “rage, resentment, and despair,” exactly like Adam and Eve. • Like Adam and Eve, Belinda exercises free will: eating the fruit vs. falling in love. • POINT: Such allusions are fun, but they suggest that a darker atmosphere lies beneath the shiny surface, and this in turn suggests serious commentary.
What does Thalestris represent? • IV.89ff. • Thalestris represents prudery—female victory at all costs. • See 1882/336, note: she is “named for a queen of the Amazons, thus fiercely militant.” • Coquettes who don’t get married become prudes in the universe of this poem.
What does Clarissa represent? • V.9ff. • Clarissa: the life cycle, marriage, the antithesis of prudery, graciousness in the face of loss and death. • She mentions sobering elements: small pox, housewifery, old age. • Virtue > beauty: Clarissa urges Belinda to embrace the life cycle, no longer to dwell on appearances. • Note that Clarissa presents the weapon to the Baron at III.127ff.
Maynard Mack: Constructive Renunciation • “By renouncing the exterior false Paradises the true one within is won; by acknowledging his weakness man learns his strengths; by subordinating himself to the whole he finds his real importance in it. Renunciation in this sense, conceived not as stagnation of the spirit but [as] redirection toward its truest ends, is a ruling principle with Pope. It appears in the Essay on Criticism, where it is the foundation of all the qualifications specified for critics: we excel by giving up—not only what is inappropriate to the individual self but what is inappropriate to man as man.” • POINT: This is the kind of position that Clarissa counsels Belinda to embrace.
Question • So what is the moral of this story? • How does what you now believe differ from what you wrote at the beginning of the period? • Take 60 seconds to write your answer.
Summary of the Poem’s Argument • Belinda (a virgin) is a coquette (sylphs) who falls in love with the Baron (a loss of mental virginity—parallel to the fall in PL—that causes the sylphs to depart) which leads to a psychomachia between prudery (denial of love, gnomes, Thalestris) and marriage (love, life as a wife, Clarissa). • In other words, a coquette becomes a prude if she forever refuses men’s advances. In order to become a full woman, a female must give up her role as virgin: that is what Pope’s poem is suggesting.
Short Version Virgin coquette fall in love prude or wife (sylphs) (Baron) (Thalestris/gnomes or Clarissa) Belinda’s choice END