Rape of the Lock: Short Questions & Answers

1: What is mock epic or mock-heroic epic?

Mock-epic and sometimes a mock-heroic is such a work as parodies the serious, elevated style of the classical epic poem.

2: How the Rape of the Lock is a mock epic?

And The Rape of the Lock basically makes fun of epics. Instead of an "epic battle”, they have a card game. Instead of an epic fall, the girl’s lock of hair gets cut off which causes a funny battle. Further, Pope has used machinery that parodies the gods of epic poems. That is why the Rape of the lock can be called a mock epic poem.

3: Describe the opening of the poem.

Pope opens with a statement announcing the topic of his poem: A gentleman–a lord, in fact–has committed a terrible outrage against a gentlewoman, causing her to reject him.  Then the poet asks what was this offense and why did it incite such a wave of great anger in the soft bosom of the lady? He also invokes the muse of poetry.

4: Who is the Lady in question?

The woman in question is named Belinda. She is sleeping late one day in her London home when a sylph–a dainty spirit that inhabits the air–warns her that “I saw, alas! some dread Event impend.” The sylph, named Ariel, does not know what this event is or where or how it will manifest itself. But he does tell Belinda to be on guard against the machinations of men.

5: What does Belinda do after rising?

Belinda rises and prepares herself for a social gathering, sitting before a mirror and prettying herself with “puffs and powders” and scenting herself with “all Arabia.

6: Where does Belinda go after getting ready?

After getting ready, Belinda travels up the Thames River to the site of the social festivities, Hampton Court, the great palace on the north bank of the river that in earlier times was home to King Henry VIII.

7: Who is Baron?

Among Belinda’s admirers is a young baron at Hampton Court awaiting her arrival.

8: What has the Baron resolved to do?

The Baron has resolved to snip off a lock of her hair as the trophy of trophies. Before dawn, before even the sun god Phoebus Apollo arose, the Baron had been planning the theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair. To win the favor of the gods, he had lighted an altar fire and, lying face down before it, prayed for success.

9: Which game is played after Belinda’s arrival at Hampton Court?

After Belinda arrives at Hampton Court with her company of friends, the partygoers play Ombre, a popular card game in which only 40 of the 52 cards are dealt–the eights, nines, and tens are held back.

10: Who does win the game?

Belinda wins the game! Coffee is served, the vapors of which go to the Baron’s brain and embolden him to carry out his assault on Belinda’s hair.

11: How does Baron cut Blind’s lock?

Clarissa, a lady who fancies the Baron, withdraws scissors from a case and arms him with the weapon. When he closes in behind Belinda, she bends over her coffee, exposing a magnificent lock. But a thousand sprites come to her aid, using their wings to blow hair over the lock. They also tug at one of her diamond earrings to alert her to the danger. Three times they warn her and three times she looks around. But all is for naught. The Baron opens wide his weapon, closes it around the lock, and cuts.

12: Who goes to the Cave of Spleen?

A gnome named Umbriel descends to the Underworld- the Cave of Spleen- on Belinda’s behalf and obtains a bag of sighs and a vial of tears from the Queen of Spleen.

13: What does Umbriel do with the gifts obtained from the Queen of Spleen?

With these magical gifts, he means to comfort poor Belinda. First, he empties the bag on her. A gentleman named Sir Plume–prompted by his belle, Thalestris, a friend of Belinda–then roundly scolds the Baron for his grave offense. But the Baron is unrepentant. Umbriel then empties the vial on Belinda.

14: What happens when Umbriel empties the vial on Belinda?

Grief overcomes her as her eyes are half-drown in tears and her head droops upon her bosom.

 15: How does the poem end?

The poem, The Rape of the lock ends on a happy note for Belinda, Pope says, because the trimmed lock of her golden hair has risen to the heavens, there to become a shining star.

16: What is the Climax of the Rape of the Lock?

The climax of The Rape of the Lock occurs when the Baron snips away one of Belinda’s locks in the gathering at the Hampton court. The act of snipping Belinda’s lock away makes her extremely angry which helps push the story forward.

17: Describe the Rape of the Lock as a social satire.

Pope skillfully uses the mock-epic genre to satirize the triviality of his society. The epic form inherently makes subject matter larger than life and Pope cleverly uses this characteristic to reveal the absurdity of his society. He mocks misplaced importance by placing an event as inconsequential as the snipping off of some hair at the root of his action. Pope turns a simple card game into complex combat.

18: What does the poet do to reveal the frivolities of his society?

By placing great importance on insignificant matters, Pope reveals his society’s tendency to do the same thing. Pope also parodies the epic form in order to expose questionable values in his time. The feast, a scene common in great epics, is mirrored by the coffee scene in Pope’s mock epic. In short, Pope uses every aspect of the mock epic to satirize the frivolity of his society

19: Draw a brief character sketch of Belinda.

Belinda is the heroine of the poem. She is based on the historical Arabella Fermor. Belinda is a beautiful young lady with wondrous hair, two locks of which hang gracefully in curls. She becomes the central point of everyone’s attention at the Hampton court. She loses one of her spectacular locks after which she gets infuriated and wages a war against the ravisher, the Baron.

20: Describe the Role of Women in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

Throughout Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, many outlandish situations occur. One thing that stays consistent throughout the poem is the over-the-top reaction of the woman to her circumstances. Never is the woman presented as rational, instead she is treated as if she is having a fit at all times and is full of nothing but flight and fancy.

21: How does the loss of the lock mean to Belinda?

In fact, the entire poem revolves around the loss of a lock of hair, something that is completely inconsequential to the outside world, but to Belinda, it means everything.

22: Draw a brief character sketch of Baron.

The Baron is the pseudonym for the historical Robert, Lord Peter, the young gentleman in Pope’s social circle who offended Arabella Fermor and her family by cutting off a lock of her hair. In the poem’s version of events, Arabella is known as Belinda.

23: Who is Caryl? What do you know about him?

The historical basis for the Caryl character is John Caryll, a friend of Pope and of the two families that had become estranged over the incident the poem relates. It was Caryll who suggested that Pope encourage reconciliation by writing a humorous poem.

24: Who is Clarissa?

Clarissa is a woman in attendance at the Hampton Court party. She lends the Baron the pair of scissors with which he cuts Belinda’s hair, and later delivers a moralizing lecture. Through her hypocrisy and double standard policy, Pope satirized the women of the day.

25: Write a brief character of Thalestris.

Thalestris is Belinda’s friend, named for the Queen of the Amazons and representing the historical Gertrude Morley, a friend of Pope’s and the wife of Sir George Browne (rendered as her “beau,” Sir Plume, in the poem). She eggs Belinda on in her anger and demands that the lock should be returned at any cost.

26: Who is Sir Plume? What do you know about him?

Thalestris is a “beau,” who makes an ineffectual challenge to the Baron. He represents the historical Sir George Browne, a member of Pope’s social circle. His character is not only a symbol of satire on men but also a cause of humor.

27:  How does Pope introduce machinery in the poem?

With Belinda’s dream, Pope introduces the “machinery” of the poem—the supernatural powers that influence the action from behind the scenes. Here, the sprites that watch over Belinda are meant to mimic the gods of the Greek and Roman traditions, who are sometimes benevolent and sometimes malicious, but always intimately involved in earthly events. The scheme also makes use of other ancient hierarchies and systems of order.

28: In Canto 2, the sexual allegory of the poem begins to come into fuller view. How?

In this canto, the sexual allegory of the poem begins to come into fuller view. The title of the poem already associates the cutting of Belinda’s hair with a more explicit sexual conquest, and here Pope cultivates that suggestion. He multiplies his sexually metaphorical language for the incident, adding words like “ravish” and “betray” to the “rape” of the title. He also slips in some commentary on the implications of his society’s sexual mores, as when he remarks that “when success a Lover’s toil attends, / few ask, if fraud or force attain’d his ends.”

29: What does Pope suggest by parodying the battle scenes of the great epic poems?

The rendering of the card game as a battle constitutes an amusing and deft narrative feat. By parodying the battle scenes of the great epic poems, Pope is suggesting that the energy and passion once applied to brave and serious purposes is now expended on such insignificant trials as games and gambling, which often become a mere front for flirtation.

30: Give a reason example of humor in the Poem.

The humor of the poem comes from the tempest in a teapot of vanity being couched within the elaborate, formal verbal structure of an epic poem. When the Baron, for example, goes to snip the lock of hair, Pope says,

The Peer now spreads the glittering Forfex wide,
T’ inclose the Lock; now joins it, to divide.
Ev’n then, before the fatal Engine clos’d,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos’d;
Fate urged the Sheers, and cut the Sylph in twain,
(But Airy Substance soon unites again)
The meeting Points the sacred Hair dissever
From the fair Head, forever and forever!

31: For what purpose did Pope write The Rape of the Lock?

Pope wrote a mock-heroic for the purpose of satirizing or poking fun at a petty quarrel in the contemporary world in which he lived.

32: The upper- class of which century has been criticized in the poem?

"The Rape of the Lock” offers a window into upper-class society in the early 18th century.

33: When the Rape of the Lock was published under Pope’s own name?

The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is a mock-epic poem, composed and published anonymously in 1712 and revised and republished under Pope’s own name in 1714.

33: Is “The Rape of the Lock” a better example of Horatian or Juvenalian satire?

“The Rape of the Lock” is a better example of Horatian satire than it is of Juvenalian satire. Juvenalian satire is a harsher form of satire, which treats a subject with contempt.

34: What two questions about "motives” does Pope want the Muse to answer?

The first question that Pope asks the muse to answer explicitly involves motive:

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel

A well-bred Lord t’ assault a gentle Belle?

The second question is essentially an inversion of the first:

…what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,

Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?

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35: In the Rape of the Lock, what does "Muse” refer to?

A Muse refers to one of seven sisters in Greek mythology, each of whom was responsible for a particular branch of art or science. This Muse is supposedly the goddess of poetry.

36: Write a brief note on the vanity in "The Rape of the Lock”.

There is a large focus on women’s vanity in "The Rape of the Lock” but it is also a comment on the vanity and undeserved sense of the importance of humanity in general.

37: Explain the role of fate in The Rape of the Lock.

Fate plays a major role in The Rape of the Lock.  Early on in the poem, Fate hides the specific details of the "dire disaster” (II, 103-104).  Then after the card game, Fate is once again mentioned as having a major role in the outcome of future events.

38: In the Rape of the Lock, is there an object that is associated with Ariel the sylph?

There isn’t really a consistent object that is associated with Ariel the sylph in this brilliant mock-epic as opposed to an action or an ability. As Ariel is a supernatural creature, a fairly-like individual who is able to fly and also able to control and command a group of sylphs in order to try and protect Belinda, he is able to do other various supernatural things.

39: Explain the quotation: "What dire offence from amorous cause springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things.”

The quotation, ‘What dire offense from amorous causes springs, /What mighty contests rise from trivial things’ is the opening couplet of Alexander Pope’s ‘The Rape of the Lock.’ It is written in the voice of the narrator, and addressed to, or overheard, as it were, by, the reader of the poem. It refers to the central incident in the poem, the seizing of Belinda`s lock of hair by Lord Petre, which constitutes the main action of the poem.

40: Explain the following quote from Pope’s The Rape of the Lock: "But since, alas! frail beauty must decay/Curled or uncurled, since locks will turn to grey.”

The meaning of the quote refers to the fact that no one is out of the reach of death. Both "curl’d” and "uncurl’d” refers to the fact that no one, the noble or the peasant, can escape from aging or death. This, essentially, equals the playing field between the rich and the poor.

41: Explain the following quote from The Rape of the Lock. With varying vanities, from every part, They shift the moving toyshop of their heart.

This is a curious metaphor to use, but it does emphasize the childish and fickle nature of the mortals, indirectly commenting upon their maturity and actions, by describing the heart of these mortals as firstly "moving,” indicating that they are constantly changing in their affections and secondly as a "toyshop,” indicating that their heart is childish and is not mature in terms of emotions such as love.

42: Explain the following lines from The Rape of the Lock: “When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail. Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll-charms, Strike the sight but Marrit wins the soul.”

These lines, from the beginning of Canto Five, represent the voice of reason, Clarissa, in the midst of the chaos.  Through the literal interpretation of the lines, she closes her speech by acknowledging that women’s good looks and bold words can impact a man briefly, logic and good sense impact the man on a deeper level, the soul, and thus matter more.

43: Explain the following lines from "The Rape of the Lock.” Oh, thoughtless Mortals! ever blind to Fate, Too soon dejected, and too soon elate!”

These lines introduce a portentous tone through reference to "Fate” and the fickle nature of "Mortals,” which are "blind” to the powers of destiny and can range from dejection to elation. It is important to note the mocking tone in this quote.

44: Explain these lines from the Rape of the Lock:  "Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat, with singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.”

The lines refer to the habit of snuff-taking by the idling men. There are further references to the decorative fans in the hands of pretty women like Belinda, the fashionable habit of singing, and the flirtatious laughing and ogling of eyes. Conversations are intricately punctuated with all these habitual and gestural signals that tend to suggest the levity of the situation loaded with amorous and erotic overtures.

45: Explain the following lines in "The Rape of the Lock”. By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray; For when Success a Lover’s Toil attends, Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain’d his Ends.

A Baron, who is also aboard the boat, becomes enamored with Belinda’s locks. He decides that he will have the locks by any means necessary. The lines in question refer to the measures by which the Baron will go to possess Belinda’s locks. Basically, the Baron is willing to take the locks by force or by fraud. He is not necessarily concerned with how he obtains the locks, only that he is able to claim them for his own.

46: Would you consider Alexander Pope a misogynist after reading The Rape of the Lock?

Pope depicts women as superficial and a statement against women is present in such a depiction as being frivolous, superficial, and incapable of understanding reality.  Yet, at the same time, we know that Pope is writing satire, which means that he is making a statement against the practices of social order.  This would translate into Pope making a statement against a social order that is misogynistic.

48: ‘Pope writes about a society far removed from our own.’ How far can you agree with this?

In fact, his satirical compositions are steep with his own personae and set beliefs. His physical deformity, his catholic beliefs, as well as his extremely suspicious and irritable temperament, shape his writing. Even though time has a sea change now, the proverbial aspects of human nature have not changed. Rightly so, Pope’s writing will be read from that perspective.

49: In “The Rape of the Lock?” little has been made great, and the great little.

By using the style and mode of epic to describe an unimportant event, Pope makes the little into something great and important sounding; however, he does it with a tongue-in-cheek style that critiques the hype surrounding the event.  For example, he turns the dressing routine of the heroine into an epic catalog and describes a game of cards as if it were an epic battle.

50: What is Pope’s moral point of view in The Rape of the Lock?

His moral point is that people should have better things to occupy their minds than merely primping (as in the case of young women) and collecting tokens of conquest from paramours (as in the case of young men).

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