Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock is an outstanding example of the neoclassic genre of mock epic. Pope uses the mock epic to satirize the triviality of
18th-century high society through exaggeration and parody. Basing his poem on an actual incident that occurred among some of his acquaintances, Pope intended his story to put the episode into humorous perspective and encourage his friends to laugh at their own actions.
A mock epic is a poem dealing with petty subject matter in the exalted style of the great literary epics. This genre is a form of parody for satirical purposes. The poem uses the trivial story of the stolen lock of hair as a vehicle for making judgments on society and on men and women in general. Characteristics of the ILLIAD and the ODYSSEY that the Rape of the Lock mocks include: the statement of the theme, invocation of the muse, description of the great battles, supernatural beings taking part in the affairs of men and the hero becoming immortalized in a star or constellation (Long, "Pope" 1).
In the opening lines "What dire offense from amorous causes springs, / What almighty contests rise from trivial things" (Canto I, lines 1-2), Pope states the theme of the poem: that trivial matters should remain just that- trivial. In the lines following the
invocation of an unlikely muse is clearly stated "I sing- This Verse to Caryll, Muse! Is due" (Canto 1, 3).
The entire poem is divided into five cantos and is written in heroic couplet verse. The use of the heroic couplet is typically neoclassic because it exhibits the ideals of the time. In order to write a heroic couplet the author must have complete control over his words and the story he wants to tell. A strong sense...