In Alexander Pope’s poem “Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,” Pope uses a great amount of war-like imagery to enhance his vision of the suicide described. He creates allies and enemies, weapons and invasions, as well as the gruesome death that only seems to come from war. These pieces add to the overall meaning of the work and the vision of the event that has occurred, giving the reader an image of a battle occurring.
The first images of the war or battle are that of the victim of battle. Starting at line four and extending to line ten, I find that Pope is using a great amount of imagery to depict the woman’s wound and the fate upon which she has fallen. In line four he describes her wound in only three words “bleeding bosom gor’d,” but he then extends the depiction of her wound into how it was obtained. He describes the knife or the dagger that she must have used to kill herself with as a “sword”, which is something that would typically be found in battle rather than in the case of a suicide. He also brings in the theory of the ancient Roman justice system for not just war but any crime. It is much greater and braver to die by your own sword than by any other. She kills herself for the simple fact that in her eyes she must be punished for loving some one too much; however, her death is the start of the real war, between Pope and the society and family that abandoned her.
Pope sides with the ghost in the poem and criticizes her family and society for her death. In line thirty he states clearly his great dislike for the uncle who he labels as “Thou, mean deserter of thy brother’s blood!” This is an apparent line drawn between what Pope believed should have occurred and w...
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... else, at least through her father or uncle, but once she died, all of her titles, wealth, beauty and honor meant nothing. They are things that could not be carried with her in her death. The lines about her becoming a pile of dust also fit with the image of a soldier who has fallen in battle because she is a pile of dust, which “all the proud shall be”. Every proud soldier who dies what they believe in becomes a pile of dust just like the lady in the poem.
The war imagery in Pope’s poem helps define and clarify the point of view Pope has on the even that has occurred. It also gives Pope a poetic platform on which to condemn the opposite side. He uses the imagery to describe the victim of war, the way death and battle are in war, and the opposing sides of this war and why they are battling; creating a new view of the woman’s suicide and her as a soldier for love.
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