The Rape of The Lock: Lines 115-148 - Summary & Analysis

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Lines: 115-148. He said when Shock.....labours out her own.

      Summary: Belinda was awakened from her sleep by her lap dog. On opening her eyes, the first thing that she saw was a love letter. Its extravagant language worked on her mind and made her forget all about the warning of the sylph. The lines under consideration reveal the satirical tone of the poet. Belinda is the representative lady of the fashionable society of the eighteenth century. Later the poet narrates the toilet used by the heroine for dressing up.

      Betty, the inferior priestess, nervously begins performing the ritual of adorning the lady, Belinda, who is now represented as the goddess. She unlocks numberless treasures brought as offerings from the remote corners of the earth. These are cosmetics or jewels to decorate the goddess. Betty selects some of these with minute care and proceeds to her work. A precious jewel from India is taken out of one casket while another casket the moment it is opened, fills the chamber with all the perfumes of Arabia. From another, she takes spotted white combs made, of tortoise-shell and ivory. After this, she opens a box containing a number of different articles, like shining hair pins, puffs, powders, patches of black plaster, Bible and lover letters all arranged in rows.

      Now Belinda, the captivating lady, has put on all her charms. She has grown beautiful every moment as the toilet proceeds. She had improved upon her smile to make herself most charming and alluring. The watchful sylphs gather around the darling object of their protection. Some adjust her head to give it a right pose, while others attend to her hair putting it in proper order. Some others folded the sleeves of her garment while a few plaited her gown.

      Critical Analysis: Pope's banter is here extremely pointed and diverting. His implied castigation of the meaningless fondness of fashionable belles for toilet is sharp but enjoyable. The mention of the Bible, placed by the side of love letters, is a fine instance of anti-climax, and this is one of the principal means by which Pope creates a mock-heroic effect in his poem.

      In this scene, we see Belinda's beauty on the one side as the product of mere ornamentation and on the other, there is the realization of a genuine aesthetic ordering. Arabia is compressed into its perfume; likewise the tortoise and the elephant shape into the elegance of shell ivory combs. The vast is condensed into the small and vice-versa; pins stand out as shining rows of soldiers and Belinda herself becomes the epic hero armed with the god-like "awful beauty."

      Having described how Betty goes through the elaborate process of decorating the lady Belinda with puffs and patches and powders and all that, the poet here shows the result of her efforts. Belinda, improving her appearance by means of these devices before she sets out for the conquest of the day, is spoken of as a warrior arming herself with weapons before he goes out to battle. This is the style of the mock-heroic epic. Every moment her charms increase. She mends her smile; exhibits all the beauties of her face and makes palpable all the grace that she is possessed of. Gradually her cheeks assume a more rosy glow and her eyes spark forth keener sparks. The delicate fun in imagining a 'purer blush' suffusing her face and 'keener light' starting from her eyes is obvious.

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