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The Rape of the Lock, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 831

Essay

An Analysis of the work by Alexander Pope

For historians, the religious upheaval in England during parts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is exceedingly well known. Literary works amongst many undereducated Catholics did not abound due to the strife in which they found themselves during this time. In virulent religious circumstances such as these, it is a wonder that authors and poets such as Alexander Pope came to rise and gain popularity. Set apart from his contemporaries, Pope was primarily a self educated person who, unlike many people of the time, was successful in creating his own opportunities. Despite the tumultuous era of religious upheaval, Pope’s affinity for knowledge and literature were not dissimilar to the political times in which he lived.  However, his personal experiences played a dominant impact upon who he was as a writer and the topics about which he frequently wrote. Though Pope often wrote based on specific incidences or ideologies, he wrote with a variety of humors to convey various points. Alternating between humor, irony and mockery, Pope uses The Rape of the Lock as an allegory to an actual incident he experienced in real life in an attempt to provide reconciliation between the two parties (or families, in this case) involved.

For someone unfamiliar with classical English poets and authors, TheRape of the Lock is a delightful surprise and insight into the imagination and opinions of someone who lived so long ago. With different variations on events and airs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, seeing that sarcasm and biting wit are prominent attitudes in the minds of polite society is both startling and appealing. Pope has a remarkable ability to create a lush landscape of colors and imaginations, portraying an otherwise dull and vain society in an entertaining and ironic light. Deliberately designed to be a humorous portrayal of a frivolous society, the title itself reveals the grandiose exaggeration of situations and the implication of importance upon otherwise blatantly nitwit attitudes.

The only potentially negative consideration to give in a review of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is its legibility. While the prose is bright, the verbiage, expressions and manner of writing is completely unfamiliar to someone reading the poem almost three hundred years from when it was originally written. However, in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock,the second line of the poem itself “What mighty Contests rise from Trivial things” explains the whole premise of the poem’s story. The point of the quote is to identify the absurdity of the reason behind two local families’ rift. This was a real life scenario which through the suggestion of a friend inspired Pope to write the poem. It does not give the reader any illusions as to what moral it is trying to tell. What is furthermore incredible about such a bold yet disdainfully amusing fable is its basis upon the real life situation. Alexander Pope’s interactions with the people around him specifically shaped the actual events of this story, and he did not lack any ounce of hesitation to call the situation’s tribulations for what they were: inane and inconsequential.

Because this poem is rooted in truth, it bases its main characters, Belinda and The Baron, upon the two people in his life who really were the culprits of the outlandish scenario of the missing lock of hair. The two individuals involved in the situation were Lord Petre (The Baron) and Arabella Fermor (Belinda). In actuality, Lord Petre did cut off a lock of Arabella’s hair. The incredulity of the fact that such a comical and brightly woven story had more than just a bearing of truth to it makes the story itself even more enjoyable. To provide further animation to the storyline and its characters, Pope expertly weaves mythology and some of its infamous players to act as the supporting characters who also depict the real life persons involved. Mythological sylphs are Belinda’s army of protectors, the fictional counterparts to the historical version of the lady in question’s bevy of friends. Mischievous gnomes act as literary equivalents to the real life versions of supporting players who loved to fan the flames of any kind of dramatics.

Pope’s infamous and well loved mock-epic was one of the first of its kind, and something which stood out well in contrast from other literary works of the time. Brash and candid compared to other works that focused more on conservative and religious premises, The Rape of the Lock was a breath of fresh air. Its attempt  at peacemaking between the real life players and its literary accusation of how frivolous society customs and priorities were during the time was justifiable and enjoyable.

Works Cited

Gordon, Ian. The Rape of the Lock. The Literary Encyclopedia. 08 March 2001. http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7525

Liukkonen, Petri. Alexander Pope. Books and Writers. 2008. http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/apope.htm

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. Iowa State University. http://poetry.eserver.org/rape-of-the-lock.html

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock: A Study Guide. Cummings Guides Corner. http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides2/Pope.html

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock: An Heroi-Comical Poem. Poet’s Corner. http://theotherpages.org/poems/locknote.html

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