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Mock Epic: from TheRape of the Lock

Exulting
rejoicing

Repast
meal

Desist
stop

Recesses
secluded or hidden places

Titillating
exciting; stimulating

Dejects
casts down; dispirits

Nymphs
young ladies

Snuff
powdered tobacco product sniffed or rubbed on the teeth and gums

Omber
card game for three players, popular in the eighteenth century

Berries
coffee beans

While The Rape of the Lock was intended to mock the pretentious behavior of the English upper class, Pope accomplished his intention by adopting a humorous tone in the poem. In a short essay, identify and explain how various lines and passages in the poem contribute to this humorous tone.
Responses to this question may vary, but possible segments of the poem that may be analyzed for humor are Belinda’s antic conquests during the game of omber (lines 28-29), Belinda’s reaction to the baron’s winning hand (lines 89-92), the baron’s cry of triumph after he cuts the lock of Belinda’s hair (lines 161-178), or the ascent of the lock to the heavens (lines 69-88).

“At last, I’ve clipped a lock of her beautiful hair!” the Baron said, ________ over his good fortune.
exulting

“Now that I’ve achieved my goal,” said the Baron, “let us withdraw to enjoy a glorious _______”
Repast

In Canto V of The Rape of the Lock, Belinda and the baron exchange words about the stolen lock of hair (lines 51-56). Why did Pope include a conversation between Belinda and the baron in this section? In your answer, cite one or two examples from the poem to support your response.
The conversation emphasizes the preposterous nature of the conflict between Belinda and the baron. They speak to each other as if they are at war with each other (lines 50-59).

In the last lines of Canto V of The Rape of the Lock, the lock of hair is described as ascending into heaven behind a “sudden star” (line 77). How does Pope mock the conflict that exists between Belinda and the baron through his description of the lock’s ascent to the heavens (lines 75-88)? Cite examples from the poem to support your response.
Sample answer: The heavenly ascent of the lock mocks the romantic intrigues around which Belinda’s life has revolved (lines 83-88).

How do you think Alexander Pope viewed the people who were the real-life subjects of his poem? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Students’ responses will vary. A sample response follows: Pope’s tone is affectionately mocking of the foibles of the upper classes, and his wit, like the Baron’s scissors, has a double edge. He glorifies the wealthy and insults them, but he does so in such a balanced way that it is not clear which view is most prominent. This ambiguity ensures that the audience members—the very target of his wit—will be confused, not knowing whether to feel flattered or insulted by this description of their triviality. The sections in the text that seem most critical of society are found in the introductory passages, where Pope comments freely on topics such as politics and the law. Though Pope may not have lent much weight to the silly quarrel that inspired this work, he must have cared very deeply for the people involved. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have spent so much time writing the poem. He must have known them well, for his approach brought them to their senses and averted a serious falling out.

Much attention is paid to the stolen lock of hair in The Rape of the Lock; it is the source of intrigue and conflict throughout the poem. In one or two paragraphs, analyze what this lock of hair represents in the poem. Cite examples from The Rape of the Lock to support your response.
The lock represents the pettiness of English society. He expresses his disdain for this pettiness through his mocking descriptions of the commotion made over the theft of the lock, the baron’s obsession with it, and the lock’s ascent to heaven.

The Rape of the Lock is based upon an actual incident that took place in London during Alexander Pope’s lifetime. Pope was careful to keep the tone of the poem light. His aim was not to brutalize the upper class for their pretensions but rather to point those pretensions out and perhaps to get members of the upper class to laugh along with him. Give examples that demonstrate the light nature of the poem. How do the examples reveal the author’s purpose?
Students may point out that the poet introduces gods, goddesses, and spirits that have a hand in what happens in the poem. This conceit deflects blame for the silly behavior away from Belinda and her cohorts and onto nonhuman creatures. The poet also presents the characters as overly grand rather than ordinary; their deeds are described as heroic rather than petty. Pope could just as easily have written an embittered, brutal attack. Instead he simply points out absurdities by exaggerating the situation until it becomes comic.

In The Rape of the Lock, Pope adapts the style of the epic poem to present a mockery of social matters that he considers to be petty. In a short essay, identify the elements of the true epic that Pope uses to structure his mock epic, and explain how he incorporates these elements. Cite examples from the poem to support your response.
Student responses should indicate that in the same way that a true epic involves gods and goddesses, Pope incorporates sylphs and sprites into his mock epic. To further imitate the elevated style of the true epic, Pope also describes the card game in terms of a bloody battle and portrays Belinda’s actions as heroic. Examples cited should support these elements.

In The Rape of the Lock, Canto III, the players stop to drink coffee. During this break, the baron manages to cut a lock of Belinda’s hair. Explain how the baron managed to cut the lock of Belinda’s hair (lines 120-154).
Sample answer: Clarissa gives the baron a pair of scissors (lines 127-130). The baron attempts to cut a lock of hair from behind Belinda’s head while Belinda bends over to sip a cup of coffee (lines 133-134). He makes three attempts to cut her hair; each time, because of the distractions of sprites, Belinda looks over her shoulder just as the baron is about to cut the lock from her hair (135-138). On his fourth attempt, the baron successfully cuts the lock of hair from Belinda’s head because the sylph does not prevent it (lines 144-154).

The sylphs try to prevent —
the theft of the lock

The tone of Pope’s mock epic could best be described as —

Which of the following is a characteristic of a true epic?
elevated style

Alexander Pope’s purpose for writing The Rape of the Lock was to
poke fun at the spoiled upper classes.

Which of the following characterizes a true epic and is seen in The Rape of the Lock?
impossible events

Which of the following best describes the overall feeling that Pope meant to convey in The Rape of the Lock?
affectionately mocking

The title The Rape of the Lock refers to the —
theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair

In The Rape of the Lock, when the baron cries out that the glorious prize is his, he refers to
the hairs he has snipped from Belinda’s head.

A central theme of The Rape of the Lock is the
pettiness of the nobility.

What happens to the lock?
It rises into the stars.

Alexander Pope’s purpose for writing The Rape of the Lock was to
poke fun at the spoiled upper classes.

Which of the following statements best describes the point Pope makes in The Rape of the Lock?
The rich have too much time on their hands and not enough to think about.

In The Rape of the Lock, when the baron cries out that the glorious prize is his, he refers to
the hairs he has snipped from Belinda’s head.

During the fight between Belinda and the Baron, —
Belinda throws snuff at the Baron

The tone of Pope’s mock epic could best be described as —
lofty yet gently satirical

A central theme of The Rape of the Lock is the
pettiness of the nobility.

Which of the following best describes the overall feeling that Pope meant to convey in The Rape of the Lock?
affectionately mocking

In The Rape of the Lock, with what weapon does Belinda defeat the baron?
a large pinch of snuff

The title The Rape of the Lock refers to the —
theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair

What happens to the lock?
It rises into the stars.

Which of the following best describes the overall feeling that Pope meant to convey in The Rape of the Lock?
affectionately mocking

Which of the following characterizes a true epic and is seen in The Rape of the Lock?
impossible events

Which of the following is a characteristic of a true epic?
elevated style

In The Rape of the Lock, when the baron cries out that the glorious prize is his, he refers to
the hairs he has snipped from Belinda’s head

Which of the following statements best describes the point Pope makes in The Rape of the Lock?
The rich have too much time on their hands and not enough to think about.

In The Rape of the Lock, with what weapon does Belinda defeat the baron?
a large pinch of snuff

A central theme of The Rape of the Lock is the
pettiness of the nobility.

The word desist means to
stop

What happens to the lock?
It rises into the stars.

The title The Rape of the Lock refers to the —
theft of a lock of Belinda’s hair

Alexander Pope’s purpose for writing The Rape of the Lock was to
poke fun at the spoiled upper classes.

During the fight between Belinda and the Baron, —
Belinda throws snuff at the Baron

In The Rape of the Lock, how is the card game of omber presented as a war? (lines 25-44) Support your answer with one or two examples from the poem.
The objective of omber is described in terms of conquest (line 27-28). The faces of the cards are described as soldiers (lines 39-44). The cards of Belinda’s opponents in this game are described as “armies” (line 65). The capture of cards is described in terms of war casualties (lines 69-74).

In Canto V of The Rape of the Lock, Belinda and the baron exchange words about the stolen lock of hair (lines 51-56). Why did Pope include a conversation between Belinda and the baron in this section? In your answer, cite one or two examples from the poem to support your response.
The conversation emphasizes the preposterous nature of the conflict between Belinda and the baron. They speak to each other as if they are at war with each other (lines 50-59).

“Now that I’ve achieved my goal,” said the Baron, “let us withdraw to enjoy a glorious ____.”
repast

In the last lines of Canto V of The Rape of the Lock, the lock of hair is described as ascending into heaven behind a “sudden star” (line 77). How does Pope mock the conflict that exists between Belinda and the baron through his description of the lock’s ascent to the heavens (lines 75-88)? Cite examples from the poem to support your response.
The heavenly ascent of the lock mocks the romantic intrigues around which Belinda’s life has revolved (lines 83-88).

“In the deepest _____ of my heart,” Alexander Pope wondered, “do I really care about the Baron and Belinda and her lock of silly hair?”
recesses

While The Rape of the Lock was intended to mock the pretentious behavior of the English upper class, Pope accomplished his intention by adopting a humorous tone in the poem. In a short essay, identify and explain how various lines and passages in the poem contribute to this humorous tone
humor are Belinda’s antic conquests during the game of omber (lines 28-29), Belinda’s reaction to the baron’s winning hand (lines 89-92), the baron’s cry of triumph after he cuts the lock of Belinda’s hair (lines 161-178), or the ascent of the lock to the heavens (lines 69-88).

“Oh woe, how the loss of this lock of hair _____ me!” moaned Belinda.
dejects

Much attention is paid to the stolen lock of hair in The Rape of the Lock; it is the source of intrigue and conflict throughout the poem. In one or two paragraphs, analyze what this lock of hair represents in the poem. Cite examples from The Rape of the Lock to support your response.
The lock represents the pettiness of English society. He expresses his disdain for this pettiness through his mocking descriptions of the commotion made over the theft of the lock, the baron’s obsession with it, and the lock’s ascent to heaven.

The Rape of the Lock is based upon an actual incident that took place in London during Alexander Pope’s lifetime. Pope was careful to keep the tone of the poem light. His aim was not to brutalize the upper class for their pretensions but rather to point those pretensions out and perhaps to get members of the upper class to laugh along with him. Give examples that demonstrate the light nature of the poem. How do the examples reveal the author’s purpose?
the poet introduces gods, goddesses, and spirits that have a hand in what happens in the poem. This conceit deflects blame for the silly behavior away from Belinda and her cohorts and onto nonhuman creatures. The poet also presents the characters as overly grand rather than ordinary; their deeds are described as heroic rather than petty. Pope could just as easily have written an embittered, brutal attack. Instead he simply points out absurdities by exaggerating the situation until it becomes comic.

In The Rape of the Lock, Pope adapts the style of the epic poem to present a mockery of social matters that he considers to be petty. In a short essay, identify the elements of the true epic that Pope uses to structure his mock epic, and explain how he incorporates these elements. Cite examples from the poem to support your response.
a true epic involves gods and goddesses, Pope incorporates sylphs and sprites into his mock epic. To further imitate the elevated style of the true epic, Pope also describes the card game in terms of a bloody battle and portrays Belinda’s actions as heroic. Examples cited should support these elements.

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