Pope's Poems and Prose

Laughing at the 18th Century: Social Critique in Gulliver's Travels and The Rape of the Lock 12th Grade

Throughout both The Rape of the Lock and Gulliver’s Travels, Pope and Swift both place the faults and vices of 18th Century Britain at the thematic forefront of their writing, with a particular focus on satirizing the upper echelons of the aristocratic class, as well as attitudes towards sexuality, gender and religion which underpinned contemporary society. Through the inclusion of real-life figures – Swift’s narrative includes references to the corrupt Robert Walpole whilst Pope’s revolves around a factual event – both writers place ‘serious’ aspects of 18th Century society within the realm of the absurd. Indeed, both writers choose to mimic popular narrative structures - whilst Swift’s use of mock epic brings classical heroism into closer juxtaposition with contemporary triviality, employing the ‘heroic couplet’ (popular in classical tales of bravery such as Dryden’s translation of the Aeneid) as well as a variety of stock epic narrative devices, Swift’s decision to imitate a conventional, non-fictional ‘travel narrative’ pokes fun at the gullibility of his readers, simultaneously attacking the idea of human autonomy and control lauded by work such as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (as the critic Kathleen Williams states,...

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