Women and Feminine Aspects in The Rape of The Lock

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      Introduction. The Rape of the Lock may have spots of coarseness and indelicacy which some ladies might find unpalatable. But the satire is undeniably pointed towards the frivolities and vanities of the female sex.

      Trivial Occupations of The Female Sex. Apparently, the ladies of Pope's age were pre-occupied with petty trifles. Belinda, in a way, symbolises the woman of that age-beautiful in a superficial way (though one must admit there is a note of genuine appreciation in Pope's lilies on her), but concerned mostly with self-embellishment, gossip, shopping, card-playing and flirting. Cosmetics are worshipped, vanities carefully cultivated, art of flirtation developed:

With varying vanities, from every part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart.

      Confusion of Values in The Ladies Ridiculed. The pettiness and empty pride of the females of the society is part of the confusion of values rampant in the society as a whole. To the fashionable lady of the time, the breakage of a China vase is an important as a disaster of Fate, a stain on honor equals a stain on a brocade dress, and husband and lap dog are held on the same level of importance. (Line 253-258 amply bring out the moral bankruptcy of the ladies through ridiculous contrasts). Loss of virtue may not be as important as the snipping of a lock of hair-this points out the petty pride and vanity of the female sex.

      Belinda as a Coquette. Even Belinda, the heroine of the poem whom Pope does not really condemn, is exposed as a sham of purity. She is not a pure bride to be, but a flirt employing art and artifice to ensnare the heart of the opposite sex. Ariel despairs of her for he sees an earthly lover lurking in her heart. Virtue might be lost but not a good name - "honour" thus, assumes a satiric connotation. Belinda wishes that the Baron had stolen "hairs less in sight" rather than that particular lock.

      Women's Vanities do not End with Their Lives. Their vanity is so strong that it continues in various ways even after death. The souls of women become spirits and continue in their vain pursuits. Women are of different categories-fiery termagants, yielding ladies, grave prudes, and light coquettes. But all aspired to matrimony, not with love in sight, but aiming at peers and dukes, gilded chariots and a coach-and-six.

      Petty Pleasure-Seeking Life. The Rape of the Lock depicts to a nicety the petty pleasure-seeking life of the fashionable lady of the time. It also depicts the small follies of the female sex, as in the brilliant satire of the Cave of Spleen - the sighs, sobs, soft sorrows and flowing tears, as well as the wild shrieking tantrums.

      Conclusion. Feminine frivolity is the target of Pope's satire. The Rape of the Lock is an exquisite continuation of "the strain of mockery against hoops and patches and their wearers, which supplied Addison and his colleagues with the material of so many Spectators" as Leslie Stephen observes.

University Questions

Would you consider that the exposure of immoderate female pride is the motivating impulse behind The Rape of the Lock?
"Pope's heroine in The Rape of the Lock is not a bride to be but a coquette par excellence." Discuss with illustrations.
"The Rape of the Lock is a page torn from the petty pleasure seeking life of a fashionable beauty." Discuss.
Show how Pope satirizes the little unguarded follies of the female sex in The Rape of the Lock.
The artificial tone of the age, the frivolous aspect of the femininity is nowhere more exquisitely pictured than in The Rape of the Lock." Discuss.
Defend or illustrate Pope's attitude to Belinda and the fair sex in The Rape of the Lock.

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