A Shot in the Dark

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Alexander Pope took it upon himself to call out and criticize not only some very well known people, but society itself in this lengthy poem. The picture above is just one example of the backlash Pope received after publishing his epic poem. In the picture there is Pope with the body of a rat standing on a pedestal while leaning on a stack of his works. In the title he is referred to as a “hyper-critic and commentator” because in his poem he exposed a lot of people and criticized a lot of works, hence the artist gave Pope the body of a rat in the drawing. The artist may have felt that the Dunciad was Pope being condescending, so he put Pope on his pedestal. After all, the whole poem is about a world where people of a low intelligence are seen as the elite society. You may also notice the donkey, also known as the ass, creeping around the corner of the pedestal. Also, hanging from his ear is a letter to the publisher of a certain work. I am assuming this is calling Pope an ass for name dropping in his poem. Pope is seriously critiquing the values of humans. This is just one example of where that becomes very clear in the poem:

“We nobly take the high Priori Road, 113
And reason downward, till we doubt of God:
Make Nature still incroach upon his plan;
And shove him off as far as e’er we can:
Thrust some Mechanic Cause into his place;”

In this block, I believe he is saying that humans would sooner worship something as Ludacris as a machine before they would worship God. The whole point of Pope being facetious like this is to point out that the people of his time period are giving all these below average writers credit for work that is not really that good or in some cases stolen. Whoever drew this portrait was either one of the writers that Pope went after or someone of lower intelligence who felt personally attacked by Pope’s Dunciad.

-Oliver Briggs

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