Mock-epic is a long narrative poem, which satisfies all the tests of epic poetry. It is a literary work in which the epic or heroic tradition is ridiculed or mocked, like the cutting off a lock of a women’s hair, which is the story that is related to Pope in the Rape of the lock. Ian Jack in this regard, observes that a mock-heroic poem is a parody of the epic. He adds, “in mock epic, a dignified gentle is turned to witty use without being cheapened in any way. The poet has an opportunity of ridiculing through incongruity, and of affording his reader the sophisticated pleasure o recognizing ironical parallel to familiar passages in Homer and Virgil.”
In fact, the target of the attack, in such a poem may be a person or a society. The subject of such a poem is trivial or of such nature which arouses laughter. Pope has described the theft of a lock of hair and the quarrel, which arose an account of this in full pomp and splendor of epic verse. For that reason, it can be said that no poet has ever succeeded so well in suing a vast force to lift a feather.
Mock-epic (in detail)
Hazlitt has called the poem the Rape up the Lock the perfection of the mock-epic. It belongs to the literary type, called burlesque or parody of a large scale. Pope makes the framework of his poem a parody of the epic tradition. It contains among others, a parody of Homer (in the description of battle), Virgil, Aristotle, and Milton. The parallels to Paradise lost of Milton and Pope’s The Rape of the Lock are numerous. But the most crucial parallel l is these scene, which occurs just before the cutting of the lock. When Ariel discovers the secret longing of the beautiful Belinda, he finds an earthly lover lurking in Belinda’s heart:
“Sudden he viewed, in spite of all her art,
An earthly lover lurking at her heart,
Amazed confused, he found his power expired,
Resigned to fate, and with sigh retired.”
Pope himself called the Rape of the Lock a heroic comical poem (mock-epic). It belongs to the class of literature called burlesque which is a parody on large scale. In the poem, Pope portrays the follies and faults of the upper-class society of London of the eighteenth century. The central figure is a beautiful but frivolous girl and another character who is a dandy and amorous-minded baron.
The title of the story itself indicates the mock-heroic effect. The word “Rape” is always used for a serious moral offense, which means that the chastity of a woman has been violated by force and that too against her will. But Pope has used it in a different but amusing manner. The cutting of the lock of Belinda’s hair by the baron is against her will but has been explained in a mock-serious vein. The title evokes nothing but the mock-heroic sensation.
The action in the poem opens with the awakening of Belinda, the heroine of the poem when her pet dog shock licks her feet with his tongue. Belinda has been shown by Pope as the goddess of beauty while the luster of her eyes has been portrayed as excelling that of the sun:
“Sol, through white curtains, shot a timorous ray,
And opened those eyes that must eclipse the day”
The poem consists of four cantos, very much like an epic poem, and beings with an invocation which is one of the characteristics of an epic. In the Rape of the Lock, Pope introduces the divine machinery, which also forms a characteristic of an epic. The heroine Belinda is put under the care of light militia of the lower sky.”
The supernatural machinery included in the poem is small and insignificant things. They guard the heroine when the fight between the followers of Belinda and those of the Baron begins. They take part like the gods and goddesses in the trojan war.
Propped don their bodkin spears, the spirits survey,
The growing combat or assist the fray
The Rape of the Lock: in short is a mock-heroic poem, in which a trivial incident has been treated in a manner that it is befitting to say that a vast force has been lifted with a feather. Hazlitt, in this respect, observes:
“No pains are spared, no profusion of ornament, no splendor of diction, to set off the meanest thing. The balance between the concealed irony and the assumed gravity is nicely trimmed. The little is made great and the great is made little. It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the perfection of the mock-heroic. Thus, in The Rape of the Loc, the poet has heightened the little, exalted the insignificant, in order to make the little and the insignificant ook more ridiculous.”
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