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Word Count: 736
Alexander Popes Rape of the Lock In this poem Pope pokes fun at female vanity Pope wrote Rape of the Lock expressly at the request of his friend John Caryll in an effort to make peace between real-life lovers The incident of the lock of hair was factual Popes intention was to mix humor with the ill feelings aroused by the affair He was in fact putting a minor incident into perspective and to that end chose a mock-heroic form composing the poem as a parody of epic poetry particularly the work of Milton Paradise Lost He is inviting the individuals involved to laugh at themselves to see how emotion had inflated their response to what was really an event of no consequence For the reader the incident becomes a statement about human folly a lesson on female vanity and a humorous view of the rituals of courtship The poem was published in 1712 and again in 1714 probably the sarcasm is more biting in the later version than in the one presented to Miss Fermor Pope could hardly have hoped to soothe the ladys wounded pride by pointing out her vanity In keeping with his choice of mock-heroic form Pope employs a high toned poetic diction and the stately iambic pentameter of dignified epics like Miltons Paradise Lost Popes mastery of line rhyme and metering lend an even greater air of seriousness To achieve this effect he reverses the position of ordinary speech as in these lines Her lively looks a spritely mind disclose Favors to none to all she smiles extends and Bright as the sun her eyes the gazers strike The effect of this inversion is to add rhetoric weight to the end of the lines At the same time the reader is always aware that the poem is a joke Pope comes right out and says so For example one epic tradition is to open with a statement of purpose
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