Rape of the Lock Satirical Devices Essay

From the excerpts studied in The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope skilfully uses the mock epic genre to satirize the trifling nature of his society through exaggeration, parody and juxtaposition in rhyming couplets.

The epic form makes everything larger than life which Pope uses to reveal the absurdity of the society he lives in. A simple card game is turned into a complex “combat on [a] velvet plain,” which exaggerates the little action that actually takes place in the Canto.

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In the card game called Ombre, hands are not just hands. They represent armies of different suites. Face cards are “four kings in majesty revered, with hoary whiskers and a forky beard” ,”four fair queens whose hands sustain a flower, the expressive emblem of their softer power” and “four knaves in garb succinct, a trusty band, caps on their heads and halberds in their hand.”

Pope also parodies the epic form in order to depict questionable values in his time.

A feast is a scene common in epics like Beowulf and is mirrored by the coffee scene in this mock epic. “The board with cups and spoons is crowned” shows the great worth placed on China and utensils. Instead of vessels to hold beverages, Pope portrays them as “China’s earth [that] receives the smoking tide.” Coffee is almost given supernatural powers since it “makes the politician wise, and see through all things with his half-shut eyes.” The coffee is the “fuming liquor” that “sent up in vapors to the baron’s brain,” giving him the idea to plan to cut off a lock of Belinda’s hair.

Pope combines the ordinary with the unusual with simplicity to suggest the triviality of the values of his time through the juxtaposition in rhyming couplets. Canto III describes Hampton Court where Queen lives “whom three realms obey, dost sometimes counsel take – and sometimes tea,” which sets the tone for the events to follow in the court. He suggests that “One speaks the glory of British Queen, and one describes a charming Indian screen; a third interprets motions, looks, eyes; at every word a reputation dies” through the conversation of the ladies and gentlemen in court, describing society’s twisted value system.

Pope uses aspects of the mock epic to satirize his society’s irresponsibility. He uses exaggeration to mock misplaced importance. He takes specific scenes and uses parody to illustrate the irrelevance of rituals such as coffee drinking. He uses the structure of rhyming couplets to contrast the ordinary with the extraordinary to reveal how important things are considered.

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