The Rape of The Lock: Canto 4 - Summary & Analysis

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      A Gnome takes possession of Belinda (L. 469-484). Belinda was deeply distressed; her head was torn with conflicting emotions. Anger and despair at the loss of her hair made her miserable. Now that the sylphs and their chief Ariel had given her up, a gloomy Gnome named Umbriel was free to exercise his malign influence on her. He flew down to the Cave of Spleen (goddess of ill-temper) in the center of the earth.

      The Cave of "Spleen" described: Umbriel seeks her aid (L. 485-556). Spleen, the goddess of ill-temper, has her abode in the center of the earth in a dark cave, where the only wind that blows is the cheerless, dulling east wind. The goddess lies on her bed, which is her throne, attended by her friends Pain and Headache, while two handmaids, ill-nature and Affectation wait upon her. ill-nature is an old maid who is wrinkled in form, and her hands are full of prayers while her heart is full of abusive satires. Affectation is a rather elderly woman who pretends to be young and feigns great softness and delicacy by swooning at will, hanging her head on one side, and so on. The cave is full of misty shapes: some of these terrify the diseased brain of hypochondriac hermits, others delight the imagination of dying female saints. There are also various funny, grotesque forms typifying the mad conceptions of persons, male and female, whose brains are turned by the diseased condition of their spleen, making them suffer from strange hallucinations. The Gnome addressed the goddess as wayward queen who gave women fits of melancholic depression, making them take to strange fancies, and told her that a lady named Belinda disdained her power and scattered cheerfulness all around her. The Gnome reminded the goddess that he had been faithfully serving her by making various mischief on beauties by marring their complexion, by raising pimples on their faces, by ruffling their presses, by giving disease to their lap-dogs, and so on. He then begged her to give Belinda ill-humour. At this request, the goddess gave him a bag full of sighs, sobs, passions, etc, and a phial full of sorrows, griefs, tears, etc.

      The effect of Umbriel's gifts on Belinda (L.557-644). Umbriel returned to earth with the bag and the phial. He sees Belinda resting in the arms of her friend Thalestris, and on both of them emptied the bag. At once, Belinda burnt in terrible indignation, while Thalestris, in painting her gloomy future, only fanned her growing anger. She regretted the great care and trouble Belinda had taken to get her locks curled by tying them long with paper bands and submitting them to the curling tongs. Now the Baron would display the curl to fops and ladies, and Belinda would be a degraded toast. She concluded that the Baron must be allowed to keep the lock and show it proudly to others. Thalestris then went to Sir Plume to ask him to demand the lock back from the Baron. Sir Plume did so with plenty of rough oaths and curses; but the Baron bluntly refused to return it and triumphantly spread it out before his eyes. Umbriel then poured down the contents of his phial on Belinda's head: she began to sigh in deep distress, shed tears of sorrow and lamented why she had ever visited Hampton Court! It would have been better for her if she had been a simple country lass. Now that one of the locks was gone, she herself would cut off its companion curl. How she wished that the cruel Baron would have been contented "to seize hairs less in sight or any hairs but these."

Critical Analysis

      In this canto, Belinda's anger turned into melancholy and sorrow. One Gnome called Umbriel, rushed to the Cave of Spleen to bring from her a bag full of sighs and sobs, along with a bottle of fainting fear and flowing tears. The description of strange figures in the Cave of Spleen show Pope's power of imagination. As Umbriel pours the contents of the bag and bottle on Belinda that increases her frustration and grief. She refuses to be consoled by her lady friend. Thalestris; even her pleading with Sir Plume to recover the lock of Belinda from Lord Petre proved fruitless. Pope confuses the word "honour" with "virtue." Sir Plume's behavior and his oaths are a satire on the gallant aristocrats of the time. Belinda's sorrow’ is not in proportion with the loss of her hair. The reference to ill omens of the day only show her lack of prudence. In the last lines, she refers to her willingness to have lost some other lock than the beautiful lock on her temples. There is a touch of vulgarity in these lines.

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