Term Paper: Irony in Both the Travels and the Rape

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Irony in "The Rape of the Lock"

and Gulliver's Travels

Irony loves to prove a point and those most successful with irony understand that truth, above all else, needs to exist for irony to succeed. Two authors noted for their irony are Alexander Pope and Jonathon Swift. Each man understood enough about humor and humanity to make irony cut so well, it would almost leave a trail of blood. "The Rape of the Lock" and Gulliver's Travels are two tales that mean to use irony for all they can to reveal the weaknesses of man in an attempt to save him from himself. Pope uses Belinda and all her beauty as a cautionary tale of vanity and Swift uses Gulliver's desire to be something he is not to warn against idol worship. Each author points a finger at the frailty of humanity warning against such behavior.

"The Rape of the Lock" is ironic in that it appears to be something it is not. It looks and sounds like a heroic couplet poem but it is actually an observation of mankind that is anything but complimentary. The opening lines warn us, "This to disclose is all they guardian can: / Beware of all, but most beware of man!" (Pope 1:113-4). From this very general statement, Pope moves to a very specific example of what he believes to be wrong with the human condition. With the image of Belinda sitting in front of a mirror, he gives us an almost too perfect example. We read:

And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed,

Each silver vase in mystic order laid.

First robed in white, the nymph intent adores,

With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers. (1:119-32)

With this scene, Pope exposes foibles. Her image, which is nothing short of "heavenly" (1:125), is something Belinda "bends" (1:126). With this thought, we become aware of how Belinda is completely absorbed with herself. She is so consumed with her own beauty, she builds this alter to her own beauty, which she visits daily. The cross that hangs around her neck is nothing but an embellishment to her good looks; it is something "Jews might kiss and infidels adore" (2:7-8). With these few words, Pope is expressing how unimportant religion is to this woman or to her society. Later in the poem, Pope also depicts men to be just as shallow as the women. The Baron goes through terrible trouble to devise new "strategems" (3:120) to get what he wants but what he wants only proves what a weak man he actually is. The irony we see is a total loss in the human race. Left to its own devices, mankind will do what it takes to satisfy banal urges and forget the rest.

In Gulliver's Travels, irony emerges in many scenes but one of the most significant is while Gulliver must the truth about… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Irony in Both the Travels and the Rape.  (2010, August 18).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/irony-both-travels-rape/4664

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