Pope's The Rape of the Lock is a prime example of the capacity for satire inherent to the mock-epic genre. Given that an epic is an elegant and distinguished piece of literature, directed towards a lofty theme, the use of epic conventions towards a trivial subject magnifies that triviality in the face of the opulence used to describe it. Such is the situation in The Rape of the Lock, where card games become fantastic battles, and the theft of a lock of hair shakes the very world. The reverse effect of granting over-importance to insignificant themes is also achieved within this work. In giving the sylphs meaningless jobs and diminutive statures, Pope effectively criticizes the absence of spirituality in the lives of these individuals. The combination of these two devices is evident in the zeugmas that appear throughout, each combining an important idea with a trivial one. The politics of warfare are granted equal status with the courting of girls; patriotism is compared to interior decorating.

The epic nature of the work is central in the creation of humour. The Rape of the Lock demonstrates a multitude of epic conventions. Allusion is used to show the universal nature of the theme; Milton, Shakespeare, and the Bible are all cited. The language itself is epic, combining masterful use of the heroic couplet with beauty and elegence. Epic battles occur, and theme is stated, all presented in Medias Res. The epic question is presented: "What mighty contests arise from trivial things?" A force of supernatural characters, the "aerial guard", forward the ideas of the work. Undeserving of these epic conventions, the events and persons in The Rape of the Lock are effectively satirized.

Quick to come under fire from Pope are the political and legal institutions of Britain. Statesmen share their attention between politics and womanizing while "wretches hang that juryman may dine". Pope demonstrates how these great political figures are little more than common in their more base desires, yet still occupy a vastly superior class than most of society. The inequality between classes even manifests itself in religion, as demonstrated by the Sylphs who are "wondrous fond of place". The pursuit of social glory, or "thirst of fame", is what initially drives Belinda into the ombre "battle". Here, warfare is diminished to a mere game, played between members of the wealthy elite. In portraying war in this manner, reflections on the nature of war are generated. Ultimately, these reflections lead to the conclusions presented by Pope: that warfare is simply another tool of the wealthy. The use of such an elevated tone in the description of the game draws ridicule towards both warfare and the social machinations of the wealthy.

Furthermore, the lack of dignity in society, as perceived by Pope, is shown in the ingracious way that Belinda responds to her eventual victory. This outburst is contrasted directly with her later exclamation at the severing of her lock. Equally, this commotion is used as a criticism of the lack of morality among members of the aristocracy. Things that traditionally elicit respect, or at least importance, such as death and the loss of innocence, with particular regard to sexual innocence, are given no thought. Also indicative of moral corruption and political maneuvering is the traitorous nature of Clarissa's friendship towards Belinda. While Clarissa is supposedly Belinda's friend, she provides the implement by which Belinda's fated lock is severed. These false alliances and secret betrayals between women are highlighted in Pope's hyperbolized description of gossip: "At every word a reputation dies". Just as the men play at politics and war, women fight their own battles in a uniquely feminine way. The idea of Belinda as a social climber is thus further reinforced as she tries to combat the men upon their own "velvet plain".

The conflict between men and women, as acutely portrayed in the ombre game, is central to the theme of The Rape of the Lock. The roles of women and men are examined, as well as the conflict between them, through the activities of court. Generally, these portrayals are unflattering. The men are demonstrated to be foppish fools, Dapperwit and Sir Fopling included, whose wits are weighed against the ladies' hair and "at length the wits mount up, the hairs subside". The women are shown to be deceitful, finding "fit instruments of ill" when they "bend their wills to mischief". Just as the wily woman, Belinda, proves the victor of the ombre battle, it is the women who win the final battle between the sexes after the severing of the hair. With lethal frowns and eyes that "scatter death around" the women dispatch the helpless men.

The final resolution of the conflict, and the immortalization of the lock, represents an interesting parallel to reality. Regardless that those involved in the actual incident that precipitated this poem have died, the conflict is retained in the form of the poem. Thus "amidst the stars is inscribed Belinda's name". In speaking about the Muse granting immortality to the lock, Pope is talking about himself and the manner in which he has passed on the story of this dispute. Here, a central idea of Horatian satire is exposed: the capacity of humans to learn from past mistakes.

As a classic example of a Horatian satire, The Rape of the Lock tries to correct to follies of humans who are, despite their foibles, basically good. In this regard, the tone of the piece is appropriate: critical but not as aggressively so as the Juvenalian satire of Swift. Those for whom the story was commissioned, and who form its pool of characters, are offered a view of themselves which can be used to change their behavior for the better. This piece constitutes exceptionally effective satire, in that beyond simply pointing out problems it offers the hope of their eventual resolution.