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Rape Of The Lock Summary Alexander Pope

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Sandra Watson
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Summary
Belinda arises to prepare for the day’s social activities after sleeping late. Her guardian sylph, Ariel,
warned her in a dream that some disaster will befall her, and promises to protect her to the best of
his abilities. Belinda takes little notice of this oracle, however. After an elaborate ritual of dressing
and primping, she travels on the Thames River to Hampton Court Palace, an ancient royal residence
outside of London, where a group of wealthy young socialites are gathering for a party. Among them
is the Baron, who has already made up his mind to steal a lock of Belinda’s hair. He has risen early to
perform and elaborate set of prayers and sacrifices to promote success in this enterprise. When the
partygoers arrive at the palace, they enjoy a tense game of cards, which Pope describes in mockheroic terms as a battle. This is followed by a round of coffee. Then the Baron takes up a pair of
scissors and manages, on the third try, to cut off the coveted lock of Belinda’s hair. Belinda is furious.
Umbriel, a mischievous gnome, journeys down to the Cave of Spleen to procure a sack of sighs and a
flask of tears which he then bestows on the heroine to fan the flames of her ire. Clarissa, who had
aided the Baron in his crime, now urges Belinda to give up her anger in favor of good humor and
good sense, moral qualities which will outlast her vanities. But Clarissa’s moralizing falls on deaf ears,
and Belinda initiates a scuffle between the ladies and the gentlemen, in which she attempts to
recover the severed curl. The lock is lost in the confusion of this mock battle, however; the poet
consoles the bereft Belinda with the suggestion that it has been taken up into the heavens and
immortalized as a constellation.
Analysis: Themes and Form
The Rape of the Lock is a humorous indictment of the vanities and idleness of 18th-century high
society. Basing his poem on a real incident among families of his acquaintance, Pope intended his
verses to cool hot tempers and to encourage his friends to laugh at their own folly.
The poem is perhaps the most outstanding example in the English language of the genre of mockepic. The epic had long been considered one of the most serious of literary forms; it had been
applied, in the classical period, to the lofty subject matter of love and war, and, more recently, by
Milton, to the intricacies of the Christian faith. The strategy of Pope’s mock-epic is not to mock the
form itself, but to mock his society in its very failure to rise to epic standards, exposing its pettiness
by casting it against the grandeur of the traditional epic subjects and the bravery and fortitude of
epic heroes: Pope’s mock-heroic treatment in The Rape of the Lockunderscores the ridiculousness of
a society in which values have lost all proportion, and the trivial is handled with the gravity and
solemnity that ought to be accorded to truly important issues. The society on display in this poem is
one that fails to distinguish between things that matter and things that do not.

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Rape Of The Lock Summary Alexander Pope

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