Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" is a social commentary on the eighteenth century elitist classes. The poem is set in Hampton Courts, where the beautiful, young aristocrat, Belinda, has arrived to play a game of cards with a group of her acquaintances. Unfortunately for poor Belinda, one of the members of the party spitefully decides to cut off a lock of her famously beautiful hair. Although this event is the heart of the poem's plot, Pope's masterfully written descriptions include a wide variety of mystical creatures including spites, gnomes, and fairies.
At first glance, a modern-day reader may feel that this poem is extremely wordy and seemingly drags on forever, particularly when keeping in mind the fact that the event at the heart of the poem is an altercation in which a lock of a young woman's hair is cut. One might wonder why Pope would go to such lengths to describe such an insignificant event. However, this wordiness is deliberate. In essence, this poem is written in a mock epic style. Pope's style and many of the descriptions he chooses to include can be easily compared to descriptions within Homer's classic epic "The Odyssey."
Using this style essentially makes a mockery of the event, which is said to have actually occurred and inspired Pope's poem. As a result, Pope emphasizes the ridiculousness of a society that contains members who have so much free time they elevate frivolous events and treat these events with the gravity that should be applied to more serious issues. In other words, Pope's poem criticizes the society of the era as one that fundamentally fails at recognizing the difference between things that are important and should matter, and things that do not.
Despite the fact that "The Rape of the Lock" is filled with literary allusions to classic works that would have been easily understood at the time but have since lost their meaning to the modern world, the poem is overall easy to read. Pope's heroic couplet rhyming scheme makes the descriptions flow easily and give the poem a songlike quality that sweeps the reader up into this fantasyland. In addition, Pope's humorous treatment of this insignificant event makes this one of the few eighteenth or nineteenth century works that is really fun to read.