The poem of Edgar Allen Poe The Raven Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:28:03
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Category: Literature

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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.  Although a timeless piece of literature, The Rape of the Lock is somewhat of a controversial poem. The subject matter, although greatly enhanced through the use of exaggeration and hyperbole, represents a very dark side of human nature. Being the most prevalent of the mock epics, this poem employs all the devices of the standard epic in attaining a comic effect.

The key to understanding the passage, What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel, The conquering force of unresisted steel? lies in understanding the events and the context in which the line was used by Alexander Pope.  In this part, as Belinda loses, the Baron reaches over and commits the deed, What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel The conqring force of unresisted steel? (ll. 177-8).

Here Pope literally means steel cutting hair but this also contains an undeniable double entendre that connotes forbidden sex and actual loss of virginity. Later, Belinda cries, Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these! (Canto 4, ll.175-6). Belinda is virtually admitting that she would rather have had sex with him than for him to steal the visible sign of her innocence.

This is the final irony: the superficial identity that society has constructed for her, so visible in those locks of hair, has been compromised and this is all that matters to her: the appearance of being virtuous as to be accepted in society. This is why the rape of the lock to their society is even more heinous than an actual rape and this is what Pope is criticizing: that a set of people could have a code of behavior so strict and only practice it on the outside of their lives is completely antithetical to his moral point of view. In other words, if they care more about the outside than the inside, the inside is not worth anything, and they have no identity.

The strategy of Popes 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: Popes mock-heroic treatment in The Rape of the Lock underscores 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.

It seems that the comic veil Pope used successfully conveyed his assessment of the supercilious temper of his society. The inclusion of both sexes validates Popes work. The poet was not implicating a particular gender in this epic, but rather the diminutive occurrences that tend to be blown out of proportion with regards to the society of the time. The word rape though, does carry a dismal connotation by todays standards, so with this word headlining the poem, the literature may be implicated as being suggestive.

The verse form of The Rape of the Lock is the heroic couplet; Pope still reigns as the uncontested master of the form. The heroic couplet consists of rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter lines (lines of ten syllables each, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables). Popes couplets do not fall into strict iambs, however, flowering instead with a rich rhythmic variation that keeps the highly regular meter from becoming heavy or tedious.

Pope distributes his sentences, with their resolutely parallel grammar, across the lines and half-lines of the poem in a way that enhances the judicious quality of his ideas. Moreover, the inherent balance of the couplet form is strikingly well suited to a subject matter that draws on comparisons and contrasts: the form invites configurations in which two ideas or circumstances are balanced, measured, or compared against one another.

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