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The epic or heroic poem, as defined by M.H.

Abrams, is "a work that meets at lea st the following criteria: it is a long verse narrative on a serious subject, to ld in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figu re on whose actions define the fate of a tribe, a nation orthe human race" (76). He also tells us that because of its elevated style, length and sheer magnifice nce, there are only about half a dozen of such poems of "indubitable greatness". Abrams goes onto list some of the conventions found within an epic poem: the na rrator begins with his argument orepic question invoking a muse to his aid he de scribes heightened and illustrious characters who often have divine lineage he e stablishes great battles or tasks over which the epic hero must triumph to secure the tribe, nation or even race he/she is trying to defend. A mock-epic in vokes similar conventions to a very different purpose. Abrams defines the mock-e pic or mock-heroic poem as "that type of parody which imitates, in a sustained way, both the elaborate form and the ce remonious style ofan epic genre, but applies it to narrate at length a commonpla ce or trivial subject matter" (27). One of the most powerful examples of a mock-epic is Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The poem is a humorous, mock-epic parodying the vanities and idleness of the eighteenth-century high society in Britain. In his poem The Rape of the Lock, Pope not only uses traditional epic conventions but als o inverts them to create a mock epic for the purpose of satirizing his society. This method of inve rsion underscores the ridiculousness of a society in which value has lost all pr oportion and the trivial has become paramount. The strategy of Pope's mock epic is not to undercut the genre form itself; instead, he is mocking his society for failing to uphold the epic standards with heroes, battlesand values. Pope opens the poem with an epic question who's satirical tone signals his inten t to ridicule his society. As in traditional epics, Pope's poem opens with the i nvocation of a muse. He then asks a question that states the topic that the epic will address. In The Rape of the Lock, the epic convention is inverted because the epic question is of a trivial subject matter. Pope writes; Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle? Oh, say what stranger cause, yet unexplored, Could make a gentle belle reject a lord? In tasks so bold can little men engage, And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage? (I, 7-12) Here Pope states the epic question or the primary concern of the poem: how a "we ll -bread lord could assault a gentle belle?" and in return how a "gentle belle" could reject a lord? Pope emphasizes how trivial his poem is by appealing to the muse through an epic question. First, the reader is made aware that this form of epicis not going to examine the details of the fate of a man, town, nation, or even humanity but ratherthe flirtatious trifles of a "gentle belle" and a "well-bread lord". Through this inversion of an epic c onvention, Pope is satirizing his society by implying that they have no great su bject or plight about which to write a traditional epic. Instead, the most trivial of things, a quarrel between abelle and a lord, stands as the most important subject upon whi ch his society focused. The satire'seffect is seen because Pope is not necessari ly saying that his country has not more important issues on which to write upon; rather he is stating those issues are not addressed or e ven considered because high society concerns are so trivial and frivolous. In fa ct, priorities and values have been so

inverted within British high society that the theft of a lock of hair is a great affront and a pressing matter. Similar to the previous epic convention inversion, Pope also uses the diction in his epic question to emphasize the triviality of his society. In particular, he focuses on the word "assault". Pope writes, "Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel/ A well-bread lord to assault agentle belle?" (9-10). The connotati on that the word assault carries, is far different from the actual "assault" tha t transpires within the poem. The word "assault" primarily refers to a violent a ct that causes some form of bodily harm. By comparing a lock of hair that has been cut without permission to an assault, Pope is making a statement about how incre dibly inverted high society's values and views have become. Hence, Pope satirize s the backwardness of his society by describing a trivial incident using a word with such a violent and serious connotation. The epic having heightened and illustrious characters is another epic convention that Pope inverts to further illustrate his satire. Abrams writes. " The hero of an epic poem is a figure of great national or even cosmic importance" (77). Predominantly, in a classical epic the hero or heroine will be of some div ine lineage or, at least, bear some superhuman qualities. Pope's characters, although they are the main focus of a mo ck epic, have neither great nor cosmic importance. Pope's parody, however, is tr emendously skillful because his characters take on similar actions that an epic hero or heroine woul d, but they are inverted to suit the triviality of the society he is trying to r epresent. A good example relates to Belinda spending time primping herself befor e the affair at Hampton Court Palace because this event parallels an epic hero p reparing for battle. "Belinda's toilet preparations are invested with all themoc k solemnity of the epic hero going to worship before arming for battle." (Gordon , 171) Yet, instead of an epic hero worshipping a G-d before battle, Belinda has a ritualized worship of her own image in the mirror. Pope writes, And now unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd Each silver vase in mystic order laid. First rob'd in white, the nymph intent adores With head uncover'd, the cosmetic pow'rs. A heavenly image in the glass appears; To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears. The inferior priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling begins the sacred rights of pride. (I, 122-128) The narcissism within this passage is clearly satirical to exemplify the vanity Pope perceived amongst high society at that time. The passage also has sacrilegi ous undertones as Belinda is clearly being portrayed as some divine figure in th e mist of worshipping herself. Her toilet, "unveil'd" like a religious altar, co incides with the parody of this poem by putting something as trivial as a woman' s dressing table on the same level of importance as a religious alter. Ian Gordo n, in a critical analysis of Pope's poem writes, "The parody of religious worship is of course a way of ridiculing Belinda's vanity not religion itself, just as the use of mock-epic form in the poem as a w hole is a way of diminishing trivial events not an attempt to make fun of epic p oetry." (172). Gordon explains that Pope is using a ritual that an epic hero wou

ld traditionally undergo. He also discusses Pope's inver

ting some aspects to imply the absurdity of his society's obsession with vanity and other trivial ma tters. This parody of the religious rites before a battle gives way, then, to an other kind of mockepic scene: the ritualized arming of the hero. Pope writes, "Here files of pins extend their shinning rows/ Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux./ Now a wful Beauty puts on all its arms;" (136-139). Here Pope makes combs, pins, cosme tics and love letters into weapons as "awful Beauty putson its arms." The juxtap osition between "bibles" and "billet-doux" suggests that Belinda cannot make the crucial distinction between matters of spirituality and aesthetics. Further int o the poem, Pope makes a similar parody when the Baron arises early to build an altar to love and pray for success in his project. He sacrifices several tokens of his former affections including garters, gloves andbillet-doux. This sacrifice echoes a classical epic hero beca use a hero would generally make sacrifices to the G-Ds before a battle to offer respect and pray for victory. Pope's intent is to make it comical that the Baron offers such slight sacrifices for such a vain and inconse quential purpose. The depiction of Belinda as well as the Baron, illustrates the type of people in high society that Pope satirizes. Pope's depiction reflects negatively on a sys tem of public values in which external characteristics rank higher than moral or intellectual ones. Pope uses another classical epic convention: that of supernatural machinery bein g present in order to intervene on the hero or heroine's behalf. The inversion t hat Pope makes on this convention is quite clever and effectively satirizes the trifling, petty high society of Britain. Instead of a powerful G-d being present , as was the casein any classical epic, (generally a Greek or Roman G-d, or in t he case of Milton the Judeo-Christian G-d) the supernatural machinery in The Rape of the Lock consists of a rather uni mpressive army of sprites. Just as Hector was protected by Apollo, Aneas by Venu s and Achilles by his divine mother Thetis, Belinda is protected by a marginal s prite named Ariel. The difference is that the Greek and Roman G-Ds were great in terms of power and stature; Ariel and his fellow band of sprites are certainly not. Pope writes, "Transparent forms too fine for mortal sight,/ Their fluid bod ies half dissolved in light,/ Loose to the wind their airy garments flew, /Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew," (II, 61-64). This depiction of the sprites allows the reader to visualize the in significance of these supernatural beings. They are "transparent", "airy" and fl ighty, a possible metaphor for Pope'ssociety in general. In Canto two, the sylph Ariel, summons all the sprites to hear him speak to remind them of their roles as guardians. The role of the sylphs is "to tend to the Fair"(II, 91); primarily to keep watch over the perfumes, powders, clothing and curls of the high societ y ladies, theymust "assist their blushes, and inspire their airs." (II, 98). Her e the parody of high society becomes explicit, for instead of G-Ds being respons ible for serious and grave matters, they tend to thecapricious flirtations and i ndulgent vanities of the men and women at court. Unfortunately, the guardian spr ites are not able to prevent tragedy from striking, and Belinda's lock is cut de spite the fact the sylphs attempt to warn her. Gordon comments, "Pope creates Ma chinery from the all powerfuldeities who act as shapers of Fate and guardians of the heroes in the classical epic, to the tiny and fragile sylphs who vainly try to protect Belinda but can accidentally be cut in half if they are not careful. This process of reduction and diminution in the structure of the poem is an ess

ential part of Pope's joke." (166). Gordon is stating that Pope inverts the role of a "G-d" in an epic poemto satirize the values of his society. Essentially, b ecause the morals of the people are slight, insignificant and vain so are the GDs and Machinery that protect them. The next epic convention thatPope plays on is that of the "great epic battle". T he first battle fought in The Rape of the Lock is not on the glory of a battlefi eld like a classical epic, but on the "velvet plain" of a card table . Pope writes, "Now to the Baron fate inclines the field./ The imperial consort of the crown of Spades./ The Club's black tyrant first her victim died,/ Spite o f his haughty mien and barbarous pride. " (III, 66-69) Pope uses battle imagery to compare a trivial card game between B elinda and the Baron to a great battle scene in a classical epic. By parodying t he battle scenes of a great epic poem, Pope implies that the passion once associated with brave and serious purposes is now being used todepict petty trials such as card games and gambling that usual ly serve as a front for flirtation. I n canto five, trivial battles are once again explored, as the belles battle the beaus in a flirtatious attempt to reclaim Belinda's severed lock from the Baron. The battle between the sexes is a frivolous one for it is fought with smiles, g lances and frowns in the place of weapons. Pope writes, While through the press enrage Thalestris flies, And scatters death around from both her eyes, A beau and witling perished in the throng, One died in metaphor, and one in song. (V, 57-60) When bold SirPlume had drawn Clarissa down, Chloe stepped in, and killed him with a frown; She smiled to see thedoughty hero slain, But, her smile, the beau revived again. (V, 67-70) Here Pope exposes the triviality of his society through a petty battle meant to be derived from the great battles fought in a classical epic. Thalestris "scatte rs death around from both her eyes", implies that a woman's evil looks has the p ower cause a man to "perish". There is also a metaphor for death indicating not deathon the literal level, which would be a serious topic, but the allegorical d eath of a male ego from not being able to win a belle's fancy. Men are able to d ie and be "revived" by the frowns and smiles of a lady. Pope is thus parodying his society in calling the beau "a hero slain" , for it is obvious that there is nothing heroic in the frivolous flirtations be tween the men and women Britain's high society. Throughout Pope's mock epic poem, The Rape of the Lock, there is a constant inve rsion of epic conventions such as great heroes, G-Ds and battles to trivial peop le, beings and actions that all serve to construct a satire. The Rape of the Loc k is essentially a comical indictment of the vanities and idleness of the eighte enth-century high society. Although Pope's poem is predominately a parody reflec ting the triviality of his society, it also contains a moral message that Pope b oth subtly and blatantly incorporates into his text: people should merit praise for their kindness and virtue, not for their physical beauty and outward appeara nces. Essentially, Pope argues that the most important qualities, regardless of one's social class, come from within.

Works Cited Pope, Ale

xander. "The Rape of the Lock." Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Ferguson, Margar et, Mary Jo Salter, and Jon Stallworthy, 4th ed. New York: Norton, 1997 Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Orlando: Harcourt Brace UP, 1 999 Gordon, Ian. A Preface to Pope. 2nd ed. New York: Longman Group Ltd., 1993 Harris, Stephen L. Classical Mythology: Images and Insights. Ed. Stephen L. Harr is, Gloria Platzner, 2nd ed. Sacramento: Mayfield Publishing Co.

epic heroic poem defined abrams work that meets least following criteria long verse narrative serious subject told fo rmal elevated style centered heroic quasi divine figure whose actions define fate tribe nation human race also tells that because elevated style length sheer magnificence there onl y about half dozen such poems indubitable greatness abrams goes list some conven tions found within epic poem narrator begins with argumentepic question invoking muse describes heightened illustrious characters often have divine lineage esta blishes great battles tasks over which hero must triumph secure tribe nation eve n race trying defend mock invokes similar conventions very different purpose abr ams defines mock mock heroic poem that type parody which imitates sustained both elaborate form ceremonious style genre applies narrate length commonplace trivial subject matter most powerful example s alexander pope rape lock humorous parodying vanities idleness eighteenth centu ry high society britain rape lock pope only uses traditional conventions also in verts them create purpose satirizing society this method inversion underscoresri diculousness society which value lost proportion trivial become paramount strate gy pope undercut genre form itself instead mocking failing uphold standards with heroes battles values opens with question satirical tone signals intent ridicul e traditional epics opens invocation muse then asks question states topic will a ddress rape lock convention inverted because trivial subject matter writes what strange motive goddess could compel well bred lord assault gentle belle what str anger cause unexplored could make gentle belle reject lord tasks bold little eng age soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage here states primary concern well bread l ord could assault gentle belle return reject emphasizes appealing muse through f irst reader made aware this form going examine details fate town nation even hum anity rather flirtatious trifles well bread through this inversion convention sa tirizing implyingthey have great plight about write traditional instead most thi ngs quarrel between stands most important upon focused satire effect seen becaus e necessarily saying country more important issues writeupon rather stating thos e issues addressed even considered high concerns frivolous fact priorities value s have been inverted within british high theft hair great affront pressing matte r similar previous convention inversion also uses diction emphasize triviality p articular focuses word assault writes what strange motive goddess compel bread c onnotation word carries different from actual transpires within word primarily refers violent causes some bodily harm comparing hair been without permissionmaking statement about incredibly inverted values views becom e hence satirizes backwardness describing incident using such violent serious co nnotation having heightened illustrious characters another inverts further illustrate satire writes hero figure national cosmic importance

predominantly classical hero heroine will some divine lineage least bear superhu man qualities characters although theymain focus neither cosmic importance parod y however tremendously skillful take similar actions heroine would they suit tri viality trying represent good example relates belinda spending time primping her self before affair hampton court palace event parallels preparing battle belinda toilet preparations invested solemnity going worship before arming battle gordo n instead worshipping before battle belinda ritualized worship image mirror unve il toilet stands display each silver vase mystic order laid first white nymph in tent adores head uncover cosmetic heavenly image glass appears bends eyes rears inferior priestess altar side trembling begins sacred rights pride narcissism pa ssage clearly satirical exemplify vanity perceived amongst time passage sacrileg ious undertones clearly being portrayed figure mist worshipping herself toilet u nveil like religious altar coincides parody putting something woman dressing tab le same level importance religious alter gordon critical analysis religious wors hip course ridiculing vanity religion itself just whole diminishing events attem pt make poetry gordon explains using ritual would traditionally undergo discusse s inverting aspects imply absurdity obsession vanity other matters rites gives t hen another kind scene ritualized arming here files pins extend their shinning r ows puffs powders patches bibles billet doux awful beauty puts arms here makes combs pins cosmetics love letters into weapons awful beauty puts arms juxtaposit ion between biblesbillet doux suggests cannot make crucial distinction between m atters spirituality aesthetics further into makes when baron arises early build altar love pray success project sacrifi ces several tokensformer affections including garters gloves billet doux sacrifi ce echoes classical would generally sacrifices offer respect pray victory intent comical baron offers slight sacrifices vain inconsequential purpose depiction b aron illustrates type people satirizes depiction reflects negatively system publ ic external characteristics rank higher than moral intellectual ones uses anothe r classical supernatural machinery being present order intervene heroine behalf makes quite clever effectively satirizes trifling petty britain powerful being p resent case generally greek roman case milton judeo christian supernatural machi nery consists rather unimpressive army sprites just hector protected apollo anea s venus achilles mother thetis protected marginal sprite named ariel difference greek roman were terms power stature ariel fellow band sprites certainly transpa rent forms fine mortal sight their fluid bodies half dissolved light loose wind their airy garments flew thin glittering textures filmy depiction sprites allows reader visualize insignificance these supernatural beings transparent airy flig hty possible metaphor general canto sylph ariel summons hear speak remind them r oles guardians role sylphs tend fair primarily keep watch over perfumes powders clothing curls ladies must assist blushes inspire airs becomes explicit responsi ble serious grave matters tend capricious flirtations indulgent vanities women c ourt unfortunately guardian able prevent tragedy from striking despite fact sylp hs attempt warn comments creates machinery from powerful deities shapers fate gu ardians heroes tiny fragile sylphs vainly protect accidentally half careful proc ess reduction diminution structure essential part joke stating inverts role sati rize essentially morals people slight insignificant vain p

rotect them next plays first fought glory battlefield like velvet plain card tab le inclines field im perial consort crown spades club black tyrant victim died spite haughty mien bar barous pride imagerycompare card game scene parodying scenes implies passion onc e associated brave purposes used depictpetty trials card games gambling usually serve front flirtation canto five battles once again explo red belles beaus flirtatious attempt reclaim severed sexes frivolous fought smil es glances frowns place weapons while through press enrage thalestris flies scat ters death around both eyes beau witling perished throng died metaphor song when bold plume drawn clarissa down chloe ste pped killed frown smiled doughty slain smile beau revived again exposes triviali ty petty meant derived fought thalestris scatters death around both eyes implies woman evil looks power cause perish there metaphor death indicating literal lev el topic allegorical male able fancy able revived frowns smiles lady thus parody ing calling beau slain obvious there nothing frivolous flirtations women britain throughout constant heroes people beings actions serve construct satire essenti ally comical indictment vanities idleness eighteenth century although predominat ely reflecting contains moral message subtly blatantly incorporates into text sh ould merit praise kindness virtue physical beauty outward appearances essentiall y argues important qualities regardless social class come works cited alexander norton anthology poetry ferguson margaret mary salter stallworthy york norton gl ossary literary terms orlando harcourtbrace preface york longman group harris st ephen mythology images insights stephen harris gloria platzner sacramento mayfie ld publishingEssay, essays, termpaper, term paper, termpapers, term papers, book reports, study, college, thesis, dessertation, test answers, free research, boo k research, studyhelp, download essay, download term papers