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The Rape of the Lock. Alexander Pope. Pope and His Times. Pope suffered prejudices due to his appearance Ill health, tuberculosis, asthma, headaches, stunted growth, hunchbacked Many characterized Pope as ill-tempered, critical and judgmental. Pope and His Times.

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The Rape of the Lock

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the rape of the lock

The Rape of the Lock

Alexander Pope

pope and his times
Pope and His Times
  • Pope suffered prejudices due to his appearance
    • Ill health, tuberculosis, asthma, headaches, stunted growth, hunchbacked
    • Many characterized Pope as ill-tempered, critical and judgmental
pope and his times1
Pope and His Times
  • Pope was self-taught “did nothing but read and write”
  • Was friends with Swift and John Gay (famous poet)
  • By most accounts, Pope was a misogynist (so were most other men during the period)
    • During Popes time, many believed that women were only slightly human
    • Whether or not women had souls was a serious topic of conversation
pope and his times2
Pope and His Times
  • During the 18th century, much traditional thinking was being challenged
  • Pope identified the poem as a: heroi-comical poem
    • Today known as a mock-epic (a form of satire)
source of the poem
Source of the Poem
  • Pope based the poem on real events between the noble Petre and Fermor families (a Petre family member cut a lock of hair from a Fermor lady)
    • Pope wrote the poem to satirize the absurdity and silliness of the feud that resulted from the event
heroic and mock heroic conventions
Heroic and Mock Heroic Conventions
  • The fateful sea voyage
  • Invocation of the muse
  • Division of the poem into “books” or “cantos”
  • Descriptions of soldiers and preparations for battle
  • Descriptions of heroic deeds
  • Participation of deities and spirits in the action of the story
heroic and mock heroic conventions1
Heroic and Mock Heroic Conventions
  • Presentation of scenes from the underworld
  • High formal diction and language
  • Religious or spiritual rituals
  • Ascension of the dead hero into the heavens
  • Story begins in medias res
  • While extended similes in an epic elevate the story—in a mock epic they trivialize the elements of the story
poetic form figures of speech and verse
Poetic Form, Figures of Speech, and Verse
  • The Rape of the Lock is written in heroic couplets (Chaucer’s poetic form)
    • Pairs of rhyming lines in iambic pentameter
  • The main figure of speech is hyperbole
    • Pope exaggerates for ridicule and humor
  • Other figures of speech include: personification, anaphora, alliteration, and extended similes, antithesis
antithesis and anaphora
Antithesis and Anaphora
  • Antithesis: Placing side by side, and in similar grammatical structures, strongly contrasting words, clauses sentences, or ideas
    • Ex: Accidentally on purpose. Agree to disagree.
  • Anaphora: The repetition of sequences of words at the beginning of neighboring clauses—lending emphasis
    • Ex: In time we will move. In time we will advance and in time we will prevail.
question for thought
Question for Thought
  • Although mock-heroic poems are fun and humorous, they also serve as significant commentary on human behaviors, tendencies, flaws and more
    • What do you think is the central message of the story?
a few allusions to paradise lost
Paradise Lost

Satan whispers a dream in Eve’s ear

Eve fixates on her image in a pool of water

Satan suffers in a lake of burning sulfur

The Rape of the Lock

Ariel whispers to Belinda about pride and vanity

Belinda worships her own reflection in a mirror

Ariel threatens the sylphs with burning chocolate

A Few Allusions to Paradise Lost
questions for discussion
Questions for Discussion
  • Select two mock-heroic elements from the poem and explain their significance
  • Find one example of irony in the poem and explain its purpose and significance
  • Discuss the distinctive elements of Pope’s writing style
  • Find two similes or metaphors and explain how they work well as mock-heroic elements
canto 1
Belinda awakes from sleeping

The dream of Belinda

Belinda prepares for the day’s social activities

Canto 1
canto 2
The travel on the Thames river

The prayer of the young adventurer Baron

The Sylphs’ mission to “tend the Fair”—to protect Belinda

Brillante—the earrings

Chrispissa—the locks

Ariel—Shock, Belinda’s lapdog

Momentilla—the watch

fifty chosen Sylphs—the petticoat

Canto 2
canto 4
Belinda’s Ill-Natured mood and Affection after the loss of the lock

Umbriel, the earthy gnome, descends to the Cave of Spleen

Thalestris’ speech rouses the rage of Belinda

Sir Plume bids in vain the payment of the lock

Canto 4
canto 5
Clarissa’s speech

The battle of belles and beaux

The lock rises to the heaven and becomes a star

Canto 5
writing style

Mock epic


Writing Style
epic the characteristics
A long narrative poem

Elevated, grand style

Great heroes and heroines

The setting is vast in geographical range

Supernatural power

Epic, the Characteristics
epic conventions
The theme is usually the adventure of a hero or a war.

Invocate the Muse’s aid. (Calliope)

Ask epic question(s).

Begin with inmedias res.

Use epithets and similes.

Gods’ interference in human affairs.

Epic Conventions
mock epic
A work designed to ridicule attitudes, style, or subject matter by handling either an elevated subject in a trivial manner or a low subject with mock dignity (Karl 30).

Renders a trivial subject ridiculous by treating it with the elaborate (Karl 31).

Compare small things with something great.

Mock Epic
Heroic couplet

Rhymed in every two lines.

Iambic pentameter

Ten syllables in each line

Alternate with stressed and unstressed syllables