"Rape of The Lock" As a Mock Epic Part I

"The Rape of The Lock" is an excellent example of mock-epic or mock heroic poem in English Literature. The epic had always been considered as the most serious of literary forms; it had been used to cater the lofty subject matters of love and war. The grand style with which Milton applied the genre of epic to the intricacies of the Christian faith is evident of its heights. Pope, in a seemingly lofty manner of great epics, wants to expose the life of the nobility of his time. He does not want to mock the form of epic rather his aim is to mock his society in its very failure to rise to epic standards. He exposes the meanness of his age's nobility by contrasting it with the bravery and noble height of traditional noble heroes. He makes his purpose clear in the beginning of the mock epic:

"What dire offense from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing ...slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If she inspire, and he approve my lays".

Where Milton used blank verse to suit his grand task, Alexander Pope has used heroic couplet to "trivialize the grandeur". He has purposely involved such content that is trivial to suit his goals in writing a mock epic. His scope is purposefully narrow as well as his style purposefully light-hearted. Pope declares that his poem will treat "amorous causes" and "mighty contests," the usual subjects of epic poetry. His characters are no gods or of great sizes. He creates a world of miniatures whether it is in the form of degradation of human character or the aerials that aid Belinda. The subject of the poem is the Baron's love for Belinda's icon (her hair). Therefore, the poem's "mighty contests" arise from the theft of Belinda's hair, and not from the revolt of Satan in Heavens, his defeat or "man's first disobedience".

"Say what strange motive, goddess! could compel
A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?"
Read Part II...