Analysis of Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock": Critical Appreciation



"What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things."

Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744)


 
The occasion of the poem Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock was the quarrel between two aristocratic Roman Catholic families. Lord petre, in a moment of youthful frolic had cut off a lock of hair from Miss Arabella’s Fermor’s head which caused a violent quarrel. The gentle satire was written to reconcile quarreling families.

Thus The Rape of the Lock was dedicated to Miss Arabelle Fermors belonging to a distinguished Catholic family. It was dedicated to her as it was to reconcile her family with that of Lord Petre who had cut off a lock hair from the lady’s head which caused a violent quarrel.

Coming to the title the word Rape in the title means violence on women. In the poem no woman is the victim of rape but it is the lock of a woman named Belinda that is raped by a fashionable Baron. So, the title brings out the triviality of the subject-matter and is hence appropriate. Again the title of the poem bears literary reminiscent. The title is reminiscent of Shakespeare’ Roman matron, Lucrece where the rape of the Roman matron Lucrece by Emperor Tarques arouses a most shameful and painful event. It also satirically refers to the rape of Helen of Sparta by Paris, the Trojan prince.

The poem also reflects the picture of the contemporary society. The Rape of the Lock mirrors eighteenth century elegant society and life in London with all it’s the fashions,   follies, frivolities and vices. The poem is a witty social document which mirrors false ideology. Morality intrigue debauchery corruption social scandals mostly sexual pleasure and fashion of the ladies the tawdriness of the morality of the beau-demon is revealed through the poem.

Pope in the manner of epic poets, Homer, Virgil and Milton, sets forth his mock epic with a proposition announcing the subject and in invocation to the muse to help him sing how a dreadful consequence arises from a love affair and a fierce quarrel results from a very trivial incident. However, Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is a mock heroic poem which imitates the elaborate form and ceremonious style of the epic genre and it applies to a common place or trivial subject matter. Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is the perfect of mock-heroic poem. The characteristics of a mock heroic poem -the discrepancy the triviality of the subject matter, the Invocation to the muse, epic similes, the sonorous and grand speeches, use of  epic machinery, journey to the underworld the of amber a voyage on board are present here.

The proposition, the Invocation to the muse, epic machinery of sylphs and gnomes, the journey description of Belinda’s toilet in grand manner, the heroic battle between the sexes make the poem an epic. First of all The term epic machinery mean the agency of the fairy being called Sylphs Gnomes Deities and Demons and angels made to act in a poem. The machinery as pope said signifies the part that the fairy being played in the epics and dramas by intervening in human affairs and assisting the moral portages. Pope uses it to admirable humorous purposes in his mock-heroic. In conformity with classical epics where the gods and other supernatural being are seen intervening in human affairs and taking sides and ending. Assisting and fighting for this protégés. Pope introduces the sylph machinery for enhancing the comic effect. Again, it is Rosicrucian. Rosicrucian Doctrine is the name given to secret brotherhood supposed to have been founded by Christian Rosankrents. The doctrine of the Rosicrucian was a mixture of religion and magic. In the poem Sylphs, gnomes, nymphs, salamanders are mentioned as being obtained from the Rosicrucian source.




Pope invokes to the muse in the epic convention which sets forth the theme of his mock-epic. The Invocation prepares us for an impending dreadful mischief arising from love affairs and its terrible result. At the same time it admits the triviality of the subject. Invocation to the muse is an epic convention Pope invokes the muse to learn the secret cause of the Lord’s assault on the gentle maid. He also wants the muse to enlighten his how a little man could dare such a bold task and how a soft female heart could harbor such violent anger.

Pope in a mock heroic vein presents Belinda, the heroine of  The Rape of the Lock , as a representation of the flawed manners, degraded morals false pretense and absurdities rampant in the life of the 18th century London. When Belinda sleep is prolonged beyond the meaning hours, she has a mysterious vision of a beautiful youth which sent by Ariel the guardian sylph. Ariel whispers to her ears continuing her against a dreadful event which might be fall her before sunset. Pope with a epic grandeur describes Belinda’s toilet to satire the fashion and frivolity of the woman in the 18th century aristocratic society. Her toilet table displays a number of silver uses arranged in a mystic order. Toilet goods included a casket containing ornaments set with bright game a box of perfumes, combs made of ivory and tortoise shell, powders, pins puffs, a mirror some love-letters Bibles.Pope with an epic grandeur describes Belinda’s toilet to satirize the fashion and frivolity of the women of the 18th century aristocratic society. The articles of luxury are conceived of as the articles of worship with which Belinda worship, she thus the poet treated a trivial subjection a grand style to register the cut and satire vivacity of the scene.When Belinda dons her safety aids with the help of Betty at her toilet it reminds us of Achilles arming himself for battle in Iliad. The arming of Achilles is an indispensable epic convention and the woman putting on make up in terms of martial idiom effectively evokes the mach-heroic atmosphere.

       Ardhendu De

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