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ALEXANDER POPE" # copied notes


The rape of the lock is a mock epic. It was first published in 1712. Then it's revised edition was published in 1714. The initial poem only has two cantos whereas the revised one is extended to five cantos along with additional use of literary machinery.
The epic is a satirical one. Pope got immense fame from this poem. This poem is a cross section of 18th century England society. The poem is based on a real story. The quarrel between a lady Arabella Fermor (named as Belinda in the poem) and Lord Petre. Lord Petre cut the lady hair without her permission and this act become a reason of disquiet on family level.
Pope wrote this poem on the request of his friend Mr ,Caryl for purpose of reconciliation of the two families. The first version containing two cantos was so famous that Pope was encouraged to extend it to five cantos. He also added machinery in it of Gnomes and Sylphs.
However ,Pope wrote in preface of poem that Belinda is a universal and common character and she is no more similar to Miss Arabella Fermor than the comparison of immense beauty.
This epic is a Satire on upper society of England in 18th century when young women were only interested in decorating their external appearance and young men in attracting beautiful ladies rather than moral values .
The judges and officials were indulged in parties.


The epic has five cantos . The first canto opens with Belinda in her bedroom. She is half awake. She is seeing a dream of Charming man who is saying Fantasy words in her ear . her dog is licking her feet to wake her up. And she is very happy to wake up with a love letter on her side.
The spirits are watching her. They are happy to see Belinda. Belinda wakes at noon and calls her maid to help her in dressing. Her room is full furnished and the dressing table is overloaded with powders puffs and perfumes.
In canto two she is travelling on a Barge to reach at Hampton Court to meet her friends. The beauty of her locks is also described.
Ariel predicts about something terrible to happen in future and advises other Gnomes to be careful and alert to guard Belinda in party.
In canto three Belinda is sitting in party enjoying with friend,sipping the coffee and playing the game of cards called Ombre.
Belinda's opposite in the game is a Baron. This Baron plans to steal Belinda's hair lock.
He takes scissors from Clarissa's help and is successful in cutting one of the two locks despite of all efforts to prevent it by Genomes.
In Canto four Belinda is crying mad over the loss of her lock and all the efforts to soothe her are vain. Umbriel comes and empties a bag of sobs and cries on her. She becomes more angry.
In last canto Clarissa is trying to comfort Belinda. She attempts to pacify her but Belinda starts a fight and it is not physical fight but a battle of ironic looks and enraged remarks. In fight ,the lock is lost and poet comforts Belinda saying that the lock will become a celestial body in sky.


The poet Pope was famous for implying heroic couplets in his poetry. This epic is epitome of heroic couplets. The epic is written in five cantos.
Each canto consists of rhyming pairs. These are pairs of iambic pentameters. An iambic pentameter has ten syllables each . however ,the iambs used are not very strict.
They have comparisons and contrasting in them.



Beauty is first and foremost theme of the poem. The poet shows us how beauty an enhance or decrease the effect of a personality.
Belinda is extremely beautiful. She lacks any moral insights. She has a superficial mind. She considers the cutting of lock as murder of her chastity . yet she is an enchanting lady. Everyone is mesmerized by her beauty. She smiles and everyone gets happy.
Also the poem tells us about consciousness of beauty. Belinda has fascinating beauty. She protects and creases herself by using various products and processes.

Flirt and love:

The poem narrates the shallow behaviours of Barons and ladies. They flirted to each other. The ladies give shy smiles whenever they see a beautiful young lad but suddenly they see a more beautiful man and all their attentions are directed toward the new person. So the poet gives us the fragility of love of his time and it's association with other elements like beauty and wealth. The poet shows us the standards of high society for martial compatibility. lilac style items to wear for maid of the bride
The theme of flirt and chivalry is present in poem.

Fashion and it's Impacts:

The poet shows the zeal of ladies and gentlemen for fashion. The locks are in fashion. The process of turning hairs into locks is painful but Belinda didn't care for it and presses her hair into curls to follow fashion and to impress her comrades at party of Hampton Court.
Similarly ,the men are also dressed in contemporary fashion and they didn't miss even a minor detail in their attire and appearance.


The speaker of the poem is a observer (probably the poet himself). He closely examines the routines of Belinda . Belinda is young and beautiful girl . first setting is of Belinda's bedroom. Her room is described with Ariel spirits and their prayers. After that her preparation for the party is described.
Then she reached at Hampton Court and the courts is setting . The incident of losing lock of Belinda hair takes place at court.
The epic is written in mock heroic form. It is rich in symbols and many symbols are used.
The use of machinery is itself a symbol to show the types of women in world. The court symbolizes the modern society and all the other thing give us description of fashionable and modern England in one way or the other.


Pope's work and Satire:

Pope has written many satires. He was a distinguished poet for Satire. All his satiric works were deadly and sharp. They consist of bitterness and malice. Stopford Brook compared the Satire of Dryden and Pope . He says that Dryden Satire is directed not only one man but whole human nature but Pope pinpoints one individual and his Satire is thin. It confines itself to a particular person.
But as we analyze this poem we see that "Rape of the lock" is social Satire and targets the whole aristocratic strata of that time in 18th century. Pope is extremely successful in unveiling the overall social weaknesses and personal attitudes of society. This is quite evident from many passages of the poem.
Pope has treated the common theme in an uncommon manner. As Hazlitt remarks "The little is made great and great is made little"
Another critic Dr Johnson remarks that"The familiar things are made new,and new things are made familiar ".
The machinery is a new things but we become quiet familiar with it as the poem progresses. The portrayal of beauty of Belinda a common thing but Pope describes it in such a way that we find it unique, extraordinary and brightened. Especially when the eyes are compared to sun.

The use of Machinery:

Pope has used a technique in his poem which is called machinery. Machinery used in this poem is not God and goddesses as used by Homer and Virgil or the angels and devils concept employed by Milton.
The Machinery in this epic is according to Rosicrucian doctrine . It is a very unfamiliar one. According to this doctrine, the spirits of women turn into Sylphs and Gnomes according to their temperament and behavior.
The violent tempered women at their death become salamanders. The polite women with a gentle and pleasing manners are passed into nymphs .
The prudish and impudent women are converted into Gnomes. The shy and light tempered women are transferred into Sylphs.
So this machinery of spirit was introduced by Pope and in was perfectly fitted in the theme of poem.
This use of machinery has freshness and novelty in it. The Sylphs and Gnomes are shown in close relationship with women of the world. As a result ,we become so familiar with them . we don't feel as if we have heard it for the first time.
The first and foremost occupation of Sylphs described is to protect chastity of women. Gnomes teach maidens to ogle and blush at the sight of a gentle man.

Satire on system:

Pope reveals the most irresponsible attitudes of judges and jury of his time. He says that they don't study the cases properly and in hurry . In their hurry ,they sign the death warrants of guilty people. The reason is that they want to reach home early and they are anxious to attend dances and parties. The death punishments in Pope time was given for minor crimes. Pope satirizes this attitude of judges and judicial members.
Similarly, poet says that merchants and traders would leave their stock exchange. They all are also hurting for balls. Ladies take hours to beautify for these social events.
The women of that age used to be glad to receive a love letter. Belinda is so much happy when she gets a love letter in morning.
The ladies were also fond of keeping domestic animals. Belinda's dog licks her feet to wake her up. The women were fond of cosmetics. Her dressing table is full of speckled and white combs,perfumes ,powders, pins,puffs and patches.
She uses all the things mentioned above to prepare herself for party at Hampton court.
The ladies of that time endured extra pains to curl their hair. They bind their hair in paper and press to make them attractive. They do all this to gain looks of their admirers.

The superficial beauty:

The poet specially focus on Belinda's beauty. He unveils this hollow ,shallow and superficial beauty by telling us about the gossiping in court. Belinda's beauty has been praised by poet and he invests a character of divinity into the poem. He has tried to hide her faults in beauty of her looks. He raises her stature by saying " Belinda smiled and all the world was gay". In spite of her weaknesses the poet portrays that she has fascinating beauty.
The aristocratic young men are also lacking in morality. They put extra ordinary effort to conquer hearts of ladies. They fight and envy each other in this matter. The lives of the fops is as empty as ladies.


The epic has a deep effect of contemporary society on it. The author is a keen observer . 18th century was a fashionable society of England. The poem gives us insight in condition of society in Queen Ann's days. In 1714 by the death of Queen Ann the political situation in England was worsened and people worked rather selfishly. This attitude of officials and ladies is discussed in the rape of the lock in satirical manner.
The Satire is not directed Against an individual but it is against the attitudes,faults,follies and vanities of women and men of aristocratic class of Pope's time.
Pope is satirizing system of his time. The poem has stamp of his contemporary time.
He discussed jury,traders ,merchants, women and men of his time.