"Rape of the Lock", a Satire.

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The epic or heroic poem, as defined by M.H. Abrams, is "a work that meets at least the following criteria: it is a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions define the fate of a tribe, a nation or the human race" (76). He also tells us that because of its elevated style, length and sheer magnificence, there are only about half a dozen of such poems of "indubitable greatness". Abrams goes on to list some of the conventions found within an epic poem: the narrator begins with his argument or epic question invoking a muse to his aid he describes heightened and illustrious characters who often have divine lineage he establishes great battles or tasks over which the epic hero must triumph to secure the tribe, nation or even race he/she is trying to defend.

A mock-epic invokes similar conventions to a very different purpose. Abrams defines the mock-epic or mock-heroic poem as "that type of parody which imitates, in a sustained way, both the elaborate form and the ceremonious style of an epic genre, but applies it to narrate at length a commonplace or trivial subject matter" (27).

One of the most powerful examples of a mock-epic is Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. The poem is a humorous, mock-epic parodying the vanities and idleness of the eighteenth-century high society in Britain. In his poem The Rape of the Lock, Pope not only uses traditional epic conventions but also inverts them to create a mock epic for the purpose of satirizing his society. This method of inversion underscores the ridiculousness of a society in which value has lost all proportion and the trivial has become paramount. The...