The Mock-Heroic Brilliance: The Rape of the Lock

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Mock-epic, also recognized as mock-heroic poetry, intricately weaves the tapestry of trivial subject matter with the grandeur of epic style. This neo-classical burlesque serves as a double-edged satirical weapon, a genre exemplified by the likes of Batrachomyomachia, an anonymous parody attributed to Homer. However, it was Alexander Pope who emerged as the central figure of the Augustan Age, leaving an indelible mark with his masterpiece, The Rape of the Lock. This mock-heroic poem, written in the early 18th century, ingeniously navigates through a seemingly insignificant event to unfold a tale reminiscent of a Trojan war.

The Rape of the Lock: A Literary Marvel

Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, initially published in 1712 and later revised in 1714 with five cantos, stands as a literary heterogeneous architecture. The poem encompasses a multi-dimensional flow of phenomena, delving into the intricacies of human emotions. At its core, The Rape of the Lock unearths a serious enmity between two Catholic land-owning families, the Petres and the Fermors.

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This enmity is fueled by a dire offense committed by the young Lord Petre, seeking revenge for the rejection of his amorous proposal by Arabella Fermor, a lady from the Fermor family.

The narrative unfolds within a world adorned with supernatural characters such as sylphs and gnomes engaging in magical activities. Pope crafts a sarcastic atmosphere, sharply contrasting the luxurious and idle lifestyles of the lordly families. The poem, composed in iambic pentameter, not only entertains with its mock-heroic sensation but also holds significant literary value through its enriched rhetoric and prosodic features.

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Distinctive Features of The Rape of the Lock as a Mock-Epic

  • The Title: A mock-heroic poem demands a grand title, and The Rape of the Lock ingeniously employs the term "rape," traditionally associated with a serious moral violation. However, Pope infuses it to describe the possession of Belinda's hair-lock by Baron, creating a mock-heroic sensation.
  • Variation of Style and Subject: Mock-epic, characterized by high-burlesque, harmonizes grand rhyme-schemes with ridiculous subjects. In Pope's poem, the subject matter may seem insignificant, but the style echoes the grandeur of an epic saga. The narrative of the rape of the lock, though seemingly trivial, unfolds with an epic rhythm.

The Structural Form and Supernatural Elements

  1. Structural Form: Resonating with the structure of an epic, The Rape of the Lock is divided into several cantos and episodes, cementing its status as a mock-heroic epic. Pope strategically begins the poem with an invocation in the first stanza, fitting the grand style appropriately.
  2. Supernatural Activities: The poem, in true epic fashion, presents supernatural activities. Belinda, embodying celestial chastity, assumes the role of a divine ore among the sylphs, while Baron serves as the spokesperson for gnomes, reminiscent of Milton's 'Satan.' An explicit distinction between heaven and hell is skillfully portrayed in this mock-heroic masterpiece.

The Superlative Nature of Pope's Mock-Epic

Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, conceived as a tribute to his friend Caryll, stands as a superlative piece of mock-epic brilliance. At first glance, the poem's charms strike the sight, yet it goes beyond surface allure. Pope's intellectual prowess shines through as he aptly notes, "Charms strike the sight, But merit wins the soul" (in "The Rape of the Lock"). The poem transcends its mock-heroic façade, inviting readers to explore profound themes beneath the surface.

Conclusion: Unraveling the Mock-Heroic Tapestry

In conclusion, The Rape of the Lock emerges as a pinnacle of mock-heroic poetry, skillfully blending trivial subject matter with the grandeur of an epic. Alexander Pope's mastery in crafting this literary marvel resonates through its distinctive features, clever title, varied style, and supernatural elements. As a testament to the enduring brilliance of the mock-epic genre, The Rape of the Lock not only entertains but also enriches with its exploration of human folly and societal nuances.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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The Mock-Heroic Brilliance: The Rape of the Lock. (2016, Aug 09). Retrieved from

The Mock-Heroic Brilliance: The Rape of the Lock essay
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