Contrast Between Satire In The Rape Of The Lock And A Modest Proposal

1753 words - 7 pages

Contrast Between Satire in The Rape Of The Lock and A Modest Proposal

       Although Alexander Pope's, "The Rape Of The Lock" and Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" are both witty satires, they differ on their style, intention, and mood.

To begin, in "The Rape Of The Lock," Alexander Pope uses Horation satire to invoke a light, whimsical, melancholy mood to illustrate the absurdity of fighting over the cutting of one's hair. In fact, Horation satire is defined by K. Lukes as a device that is: " urban, smiling, witty" and "seeks to correct the human foibles." and is further reiterated in The Concise Oxford Dictionary Of Literary terms as: "Horation satire, often contrasted with the bitterness of Juvenalian satire, is a more indulgent, tolerant treatment of human inconsistencies and follies, ironically amused rather than outraged" (101). Thus, Alexander Pope's intentions in writing "The Rape Of The Lock" was to turn an actual incident in which: "A young man Lord Petre, had sportively cut off a lock of a Miss Arabella Fermor's hair,"(Poetry, 211) into "jest ... so that good relations (and possibly negotiations toward a marriage between principals) might be resumed" (Poetry, 211) This type of satire is conveyed through Pope's use of mock epic form.

This satire first begins with Pope's invocation to the muses, a higher power, emphasizing that the tragedy about to occur is above mere worldly issues, and a debate that belongs amongst the gods. Hence, Pope writes: "What dire offense from amorous causes springs, / What mighty contests rise from trivial things, I sing-This verse to Caryll, Muse! is due" (English,1110). It is comical that the "dire offense" is the cutting of Belinda's hair rather than a life-threatening catastrophic event, such as the fall of a kingdom.

Furthermore, the muse Pope refers to is a direct reference to John Caryll who was a relative of Lord Petre and a friend of Pope in the similar incident involving the cutting of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair (Poetry, 211). Of course, such an event is viewed by Pope as foolishness: an idiotic event which has no bearing on the movement, creation, or destruction of the universe. In fact, a calamity in which the worst consequence is that Belinda has a "sister lock" that "now sits uncouth, alone" (English, 1125).

Thus, the intent of Pope is not to be invective or bitter but rather to give insight to the comical nature of the event, to bring to light that the universe does not move to the cutting of one's hair and that to have such a mistaken belief is foolhardy. This mockery and satire of aristocratic society is revealed by Pope throughout the poem: Belinda is depicted as a heroine goddess whose beauty causes "The tortoise here and elephant unite, / Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white" (English,1113). Furthermore,her trinkets are depicted as being spoils and ornaments of war, as one would use to prepare for battle: "files of pins extend their shining...

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