A Sample Response to the Following Question:

The convention of machinery has undergone drastic changes since Homer's day. Discuss the development of this convention across three texts we've examined and explain the significance of any changes in the implementation of this convention.


Things to note:

1) The response has a strong thesis, articulated from the start in an introductory paragraph.

2) The response has strong, well-articulated, and logical transitions between sentences and paragraphs. The argument seems to proceed inexorably from point to point.

3) The student is making powerful connections among the three texts s/he examines, interpreting any differences s/he identifies.

4) The student is providing interpretation of the text rather than mere paraphrase. The student has even made points that were not made in class. S/he is interpreting the text on her own and providing evidence to support his/her claims.

The convention of machinery has undergone drastic changes since Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Homer's machinery was involved in everything from sneezing to completing 20 year voyages. Milton's machinery was very aloof from the people, all two of them, and milton's god was infinitely supreme. Pope's machinery was, of course, satirical and primarily protective. The machinery and the way it was used reflected the transition from Homer's time to Pope's.

The Odyssey is full of references to the gods. They lived on a mountain and were responsible for absolutely everything, including the trivial that occurred in people's lives. The gods were very similar to the people in that they had human faults, and they frequently intermingled with the humans. Epiphany was common. An example of epiphany was Athena befreinding Telemachus. The gods were able to aid humans in succeeding or failing. The gods of The Odyssey reflected the horizontal plane of the oral culture. Since both the gods and the people lived in the same plane, they really were not much different. For instance, Poseidon could not see Odysseus reaching home when Poseidon wasn't on Mt. Olympus. That implied that the gods actually had to be physically higher than the humans to see what was going on. The oral culture believed in a certain similarity between the gods and the people and, so, although the gods were more powerful, both groups could mix. This was evident when Odysseus was frequently "admired by the gods."

Milton's machinery also reflected society's view of God. There was a vertical view, meaning that God was above everything, with hell at the very bottom. More importantly, as a vertical scheme of the universe, God was perfect, singular, omniscient, and supreme. The Devil and Hell were compolete opposites and, thus, as low as possible. Man, and earth, were in the middle. Milton's machinery mimicked this schema. God was supreme, the Devil inferior, and man caught between. God alone exemplifies the transition from Homer's time to Milton's Society no longer put emphasis on public spectacle. Society valued God as a panoptic being who could see and know all. Milton's machinery in Paradise Lost reflected that.

Alexander Pope's machinery in The Rape of the Lock reflected his satir of both Homer and Milton's machinery. Whereas Homer and Milton's gods protected the universe and mankind, Pope's protected locks of hair and card games (ombre). Pope himself said that machinery was invented by the critics to describe the ancient poets' habit of attributing everything, no matter how trivial, to the gods. Pope took the epic convention of machinery and used it for what he thought was appropriate. Pope used it to protect hair. A perfect example is the deus ex machina in Canto V when a god takes Belinda's hair and makes it a star to avoid a fight between Belinda and the Baron.

Homer, Milton, and Pope used machinery very differently. While homer and Milton used it to define their horizontal and verticle cultures, respectively, Pope used it to poke fun at how Homer and Milton attributed everything to the gods.

Grade: 30 points

See the Response to the Exam's Other Essay Question on the Epic Hero's Hubris

Back to Exam Responses to the First Two Sections