The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope Essay

The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope            This epic poem strikes a satirical chord in both form and function.  By focusing on a petty squabble of the elitist social class following the English Civil Wars, Pope effectively creates a setting of intense vanity, coarse social etiquette, and a severe lack of humor.  In fact, this poem is reminiscent of contemporary satirical publications, such as television’s political satire The Daily Show as well as intensely hilarious The Onion Magazine.

            Pope adopts a proper tone to this ‘mock-epic’ in an effort to demonstrate the elitism perpetuated by such long form poems.  His use of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter form creates the dimension of formality that serves his interests well by disguising his subtle satire.  He effectively illustrates his ideas about high society in his rhymes scheme, for example lines nine and ten in Canto III, “Hither the Heroes and Nymphs resort/ to taste awhile the Pleasure of a Court.”  In this couplet he is mocking the narcissism and leisure of high society while at the same time sticking to his formal tone.            The most biting satire is the overall subject matter and the way in which Pope describes it.  The heroic-epic was the standard poetry form of the time and it focused on the monumental battles and mythical love of quite popular figures.

  Pope subverts this norm by using hyperbole and epic form, but instead he satirizes the petty social conflicts of his contemporary culture by hyping a game of cards and the stealing a lock of hair up to heights of an epic battle scene.In hilarious detail, Pope is mocking lack of perspective displayed by these characters (caricatures) in their self-contained worlds.  Through both form and function he accomplishes his mission and displays remarkable creativity and subversive poetry.