Super Natural Machinery in 'Rape of the lock' by Alexander Pope

 Supernatural Machinery in 'Rape of the Lock'

📃Table of Contents:-

📄Introduction : Alexander Pope :-

Alexander Pope was one of the greatest literary figures, poets and satirists of England. His rape of the lock is a finest mock-epic poem ever written. Though, It is based on an actual event, Pope was able to achieve a wonderful unity of structure in this masterpiece.
Alexander Pope
The Rape of the Lock as a social satire
Born 21 may 1688, London
Died 30 may 1744, UK
Era Augustan, 18th century
Profession Poet, writer, translator
Genre Poetry, translations, Literary Criticism
Notable works The Dunciad, The Rape of the Lock, an essay on criticism

✒️Supernatural Machinery in 'Rape of the Lock' :-

A mock epic, parodies an epic proper and follows conventions employed in the epic. One such convention is the use of machinery i.e. the interposition of some supernatural agency or personage in poem. 

In classical epics like Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Aeneid and Milton's Paradise Lost, we find gods and other supernatural creatures taking keen interest in the affairs of men, in their battles and fights. This supernatural machinery also helps in the achievement of architectural unity.
Supernatural Machinery in the Rape of the Lock
Source: google

💡Source of Machinery:-

Machinery is part of  an essential apparatus of an epic poet. Since rape of the lock is a mock epic, the use of Olympians gods and goddesses or Biblical deities would have been incongruous. Pope needed a machinery suitable for such diminutive purpose. He went with the Rosicrucian machinery that provided him with what he needed the most.

💡Other sources for machinery :-

Rosicrucian philosophy was not the only option for Pope. He enriched his machinery from renaissance sources as well. Pope's Ariel directly comes from Shakespeare's The  Tempest.

💡Characteristics of the Machinery :-

Four different types of spirits, who governed life, it was believed, on earth, have been mentioned by Pope. These are - sylphs, nymphs, gnomes and salamanders. The sylphs inhabit the region of the air, nymphs lived in water and rivers. Gnomes are small and diminutive creatures who get delight in mischief and harms. Salamanders live in fire.  

The sylph caused a dream to Balinda, heroine of the poem, with a purpose to convey secret truths. She tries to make her feel that Balinda is someone special. Thousands of sylphs are protecting her, so she should feel proud.

The machinery introduced in poem includes diminutive spirits. They have insect wings, can look into the future, change their shape and sex and above all they can inspect the heart of mortals. Being airy and formless they remain invisible to humans. Their chief is Ariel. He acts more in fashion of an army general appointing particular spirit to attend to different part of the female dress.

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He pronounces punishments for careless spirits, which echoes the punishments recieved by fallen angels in paradise lost. These punishment are torturous:

"Whatever spirit , careless of charge,

His post neglects, or leaves his fair at large,

Shall face sharp vengeance soon overtake his sins,

Be stopt in vials,or transfix with pins;

Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie,

Or wedg'd whole ages in a Bodkin's Eye."

💡Role of the Machinery :-

 This Rosicrucian machinery was well fitted for Pope's purpose as this employed diminutive creatures. It was eminently suited for mock epic purposes. It takes the mock-epic effect to a new hight. Spirits' functions are more delicate and elegant than that of human beings. They elevated the level of poem and help in presenting vanities and frivolities of contemporary society of Pope.


Rape of the lock is a masterpiece among all mock-epics ever written. Here Pope, through the character of Balinda, sought to externalise the vanities of contemporary fashionable women. The supernatural machinery has rightly served that purpose. In this regard G Halden held," It is Pope's use of the machinery...which more than any single feature made the poem a singular success that it is."

📙For more similar articles:-

1)Super Natural Machinery in the Rape of the lock.

2) Rape of the lock as an Mock-Epic.

3) Paradise Lost as an Epic.

4) Character Sketch of Satan in Paradise Lost.

5) Rape of the lock as a social satire.

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