Epic convention - Rape of the Lock

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How does Pope use epic conventions in Canto I?

‘The Rape of the Lock’ is a mock-epic, which essentially means Pope makes fun of the typical epic genre by parodying typical epic conventions. Such parody is used continuously throughout Canto I by Pope such as the ominous warning, supernatural creatures and guardians. Through these, Pope pokes fun at the characters, such as Belinda, in the hope of pointing out the triviality of the argument between the two feuding families the play is concerned with.

The first epic convention Pope parodies is the invocation of the muse in the form of “Caryll” – John Caryll (a friend who had asked Pope to write the poem in the hope of uniting the two families through humour). In Greek mythology – which is the cornerstone of many epic myths and tales – the muse were mythical and magical beings who inspired. Therefore, Pope’s calling upon a muse seems to give the poem an almost holy theme, which when compared with the realistic events (arguments due to a lock of hair) it is clearly a parody and nothing more. Also, Pope’s supernatural beings extends to Sylphs, who Ariel – Belinda’s guardian Sylph – eventually reveal to being the outcome of “coquettes” (frivolous, flirtatious women). They are first thought to be holy and noble, for they are “inhabitants of Air!”, are viewed to be similar to angels and guard Belinda, but are then revealed to be nothing more than vain, little insignificant beings whose meddlings have no effect on the outcome of anything – the vagueness of the ominous warning is a clear conveyer of their lack of power and influence. This clearly parodies the traditional epic guardian who has the power to guide and protect. Through his mocking of the Sylphs, who think they “contrive it all” but actually do nothing, Pope suggests that the families’ argument is due to their own fault and no-one else’s.

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A typical epic convention is the extensive description of the soldiers preparing for battle, such as in The Iliad where Homer extensively describes the armour and weaponry of Achilles – the hero of the story. Perhaps Pope was influenced greatly through his readings of Homer’s work – which he carried out from a young age – but he also chooses to describe Belinda as if she was going off to battle by detailing her preparation, using her “Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bible, Billet–doux”. He finally states that “Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms” which signifies she’s ready for battle. ...

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