How to define Metamorphosis of Epic prominently use in literary work of Alexander Pope , this question is arose but as we have a deep analysis of my form of an epic, we come to know that there are some basic requirements and demands of an epic which are as its lofty theme, style, heroic qualities of its characters of hero or heroine, elevated or sublime subject matter, and adventurous qualities of a prominent character described in a warlike manner.

An Epic

As we know that an epic is a long’ narrative poem but when we apply the set pattern dimensions to an epic on the Mock Epic” then we come to know that in the “Mock Epic” the form and conventions of the epic are used to clothe a trial theme. The resulting incongruity is applied to the purposes of “humour or ridicule”. The true genius of mock-heroic lies:

“in travesting the epic, in bringing all the leading features of the epic machinery, lofty incidents, character and style to exultation of a trivial subject. The subject must have no doubt moral learnings but the satire ought not be too apparent”.

It is very worthy to note that it was a trend in most of the writers and poets of Eighteenth Century that they used the form of epic in their works and literary compositions lavishly, Pope was not exempted to this general rule of parody or burlesque which was so prominently found in the age.

The Rape of the Lock

A deep and careful study of Pope’s long narrative poem the “Rape of the Lock” shows that he presented a parody of the heroic style and made it a perfect comical poem. There is no doubt in saying that in making his poem as a great mock-epic, Pope parodies the epic tradition. It contains among other parodies of Homer, Virgil, Aristotle and Milton. If we compare “The Rape of the Lock” to Milton’s Paradise Lost, we see that there are many traits or qualities which are common in both of them. The major difference on the basis of which we can differentiate in both is that it is written not from a scorn but from a love. The whole is a flirtation with the sublime.

“What dire offence from amorous causes springs, 

What mighty contests rise from trivial things”.

As we know that the theme of this poem originated from an incident that actually occurred in Pope’s circle of acquaintances, when Lord Petre (The Baren) cut a lock of hair from the pretty head of Arabella Fermor (Belinda). The Pope was insisted by a mutual friend of Lord Petre to write a very jesting poem on the issue of cutting a lock from the head of a pretty girl by a baron.

It is one of the Pope’s traits of art of writing that he makes most things smaller in size and more femininely exquisite in quality which better fulfill the standards of mockery. When the Pope talks about a woman, it does not mean any ordinary woman but Belinda herself. Pope describes her in a very exquisite manner in the following lines:

“Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, 

Burns to ecounter two adventurous knights, 

At Omber singly to decide their doom, 

And swells her breust with conquest yet to come ”.

As we know that in great epics, the adventures and heroic deeds of a hero are described in the warlike manner and there are often’ fought wars and battles. But in The Rape of the Lock, there is a game of cards instead of a battle, but instead of coffee pouring into a cup, china’s earth receives the smoking tyde and Pope very beautifully describes this scene in the following words:

“From silver spoils the grateful liquers glide, 

While china’s curth receives the smoking tyde”:

When Clarissa hands the fatal scissors over to Lord. Peter in the mock epic poem, the scene is described by the poet in a very ridiculous manner but in a mock-heroic manner:

“As ladies in Romance assist their knight 

Present the speur und arm him for the fight”

These are such kinds of images which one can expect to find in a mock-heroic poem.

The Fashionable women of 18th century
The Fashionable women of 18th century

Let us, we have another example of such kind of images which is found in the comparison of Belinda to the sun at the beginning of the middle of the poem.

“Not with more glories, in the Etherial plain,

The sun first rises over the purpled main, 

That issuing forth, the Rival of his Beames, 

Launch’d on the Bosom of the silver thames”.

In simple words we can say that Sun’s rival Belinda is there on the bank of the river Thames. These kinds of elements of incongruity and mismatchfulness are found very commonly in the mock-epic poem. Pope, here compares a pretty girl to the sun and describes her life in such a style which is appropriate to the adventures of a hero. Actually, after analysing the poem, it is observed that what is true of the comparison of Belinda to the sun is true of the whole conception of “The Rape of the Lock”.

The title of the poem itself indicates mock-heroic effect as “Rape” is a serious moral offence which means the violation of a woman’s Chastity by force. In these words, it also refers to the adduction of a lady by some ruffians in quite inhuman manner. But it is very interesting to note here that Pope has used this terin in an amusing way. The possession of the hair of Belinda by Baron is described by him in a mock serious vein. Though the title evokes nothing but the poem begins with an address to the Muse in which the sexúal, implications are underscored in a very vivid manner; as Pope utters:

“Say whut strange motive goddes! could compell. 

A well-bred Lorit to assault a gentle belle? 

Oh say what strange cause, yet unexplored, 

Could make a gentle belle reject a Lord”.

If we analyse these two terms of “assault” and “reject” in their overall and general meaning then we come to know that the mock-heroic sensations well indicate the mock heroic characters of Pope’s work.Keeping all the above mentioned general elements or features of an epic poem in mind, we are now able to say that Pope uses the whole structure of an epic, in “The Rape of the Lock” but it is very worthy to note that it cannot be called a serious epic because the incident is very trivial. So, we have the mock heroic or heroic-comical poem because there are ironical parallels to the main incidents of the epic.

As far as the beginning of the poem is concerned which starts with an invocation like an epics. Pope describes this very point in the following words so beautifully,

“Say what strange motive, Goddes could compell,  

A sell-bred Lord to ussault a gentle belle”?

“As far as an element of divinity of a great epic is concerned, it is also found in the “Rape of the Lock”. Pope also introduces divine beings in the “Rape of the Lock’: Belinda who is in the divine care of the Sylphs, is described by the poet in a very interesting manner; 

“Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished care, of

thousand bright inhabitants of air”.

If we talk about the parodies of epic conventions in the poem then we come to know that these are also numerous; to be itemized but there are some certain conventions which may be signed out as the dream message from the gods and arming of the champion as Pope utters: 

Belinda's beauty

“And now unveiled, the toilet stands displayed, 

Earth silver vase in mystic order laid’: 

The sacrifice to the gods and the change to the troops. :

“For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implored,

Propitious Heaven, and every power adored”.

There is a single combat at Omber which well represents a characiense of a great epic and the poet describes it in an amusing manner

“At Omber singly to decide their doom, 

And swells her breast with conquest yet. 

Straight the three bands prepure in arms to joy, 

Eath land the number of the sacred ninę”.

The function of Belinda’s toilet is another matter of much importance which is described by the poet in a very heroic manner. Belinda decorated herself as she was to attend a religious ceremony and her toilet was as important as that of any religious ceremony,

“Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux are alt brought on the same table and the sight so that she could better decorate herself”:

“The Rape of the Lock” becomes a very rare instance of an epic because in it we see that the incident is very trivial; happened to a particular individual girl, but this slight theme is given an exalted treatment. It is very vivid to say that the Pope does so in order to uplift the purposes of satire. In the whole poem, we see that much importance is given to all that is thoroughly unimportant and insignificant or particularly and practically meaningless and farcical. So, it can be said vehemently that the main concept of Pope on writing an epic on the rape of the lock of hair is funny and bears testimony to the poet’s effort to make the little great and the great little.

In the final analysis of the meaning, we say that the general social criticism which forms the background of the poem is still the matter under our discussion. The issue of confusion of values is again the theme here which can be underlined here on a broader scale.

A careful and deep study of the poem shows that Pope presents the absurdities, foibles, follies shortcomings and weaknesses of the fashionable world with affection and with an eye to the delicate beauties that its graces unfold. He satirizes all these above mentioned vices of the people of his age and as we know that behind every satirical work there is an element of reformation of the society. So, it is worthy to note here that under the satirical tone of “The Rape of the Lock” there is an element of reformation which in its tum gives a message of morality for the people. Now, there is no doubt in saying that as any great epic is also a didactic poem and the lesson of noble, humble and refined values is always there. The Rape of the Lock is not exempted from this.

Keeping all the above points of discussion in mind, we can say in the concluding remarks that the Rape of the Lock is one of the greatest mock-heroic poems of English Literature. In such kind of mock-heroic poems, an elevated, lofty and sublime style of epic poetry is used in order to uplift a trivial subject. As we know that the theme of the Rape of the Lock is neither historical nor conventional but it just belongs to Pope’s contemporary world of fashionable society; giving only an account of Lord Peter’s cutting of a lock of hair, from the pretty head of a belle. It is rightly acknowledged by the prominent critics of English Literature that in such kind of mock-epic poems, the little is made great and great the small in such a way that the effect results in mockery.


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