Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock Essay

Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock Essay

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Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is a satirical poem that features a theme of gender roles. Throughout the poem, Pope uses his protagonist Belinda, to poke fun at the superficial nature of aristocratic women. He focuses on the ritual of womanhood and approaches it like a trivial matter, and her reaction to the offence is hysterical. Through this portrayal, he reveals that the Baron has a childish quality in his need for revenge for Belinda’s stab at his ego. The speaker’s view does come across as misogynistic, but the woman is trying to stand her ground in a society dominated by men. Taking into consideration that a male wrote the poem, during the 18th century, when woman had a particular place in society, and men often trivialized their concerns. Pope alludes to the idea that most wars are indeed over very trivial matters. The conflicts between men and women are exposed during Pope’s exploration of this “trivial war.” The narrative of Belinda and the Baron in The Rape of the Lock reveals the main underlying theme as the power struggle between the genders.
Pope exposes through Belinda, how women use their feminine nature as weapons against men. The scene when she is getting reading for the ball, Pope describes her “toilet” or makeup ritual as if she were Achilles preparing for battle:
Th' inferior Priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride…
…Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face. (1.127-142)
Belinda uses her beauty and enhances it with the ritual of makeup to her advantage. In order to achieve a flirtatious look Pope writes, “Sees by degrees a purer blush...


... middle of paper ...


...a and the Baron could be participating in a sexual act, especially with the mention of dying on his foe, which represents having an orgasm. The Baron’s intention was always to be sexually gratified, even in a metaphoric sense.
Despite the women’s victory, Belinda’s lock is lost and cannot be restored—like a lost virtue. Men and women struggle to gain power over each other in the 18th century and today. Pope uses a trivial situation to expose the flaws of both sexes in the struggle for power, such as vengeance, hubris, and vanity. Pope does trivialize the matter, but the reader does understand the social implications for Belinda and women in general. Men do not have right to jeopardize a woman’s reputation and steal away their virtue just because they are men.



Works Cited

Pope, Alexander, and Cynthia Wall. The Rape of the Lock. Boston: Bedford, 1998. Print.

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