Commodities have been a part of human culture from the start of the first civilizations. They can be crudely constructed or richly made works of art; they are still objects, however. Some people treasure their possessions more than anything in the world. These objects can become the driving force behind a person's life and desires. When someone's prized possession is stolen, it may seem as though a disaster has taken place. Those who witness the aftermath of a stolen possession may comment on the triviality of both the theft and the owner's reaction to the loss. In The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope is commenting on the triviality of a lost possession. Pope blurs the line between people's personalities and their possessions. He creates a world in which people are their commodities and important ideals in society are also transformed into concrete objects that could be stolen from society.
Before the first canto, the commenting on trivial objects begins in the letter to Mrs. Arabella Fermor from Alexander Pope. In this section, Pope apologizes for the first edition and describes what he has added into the next edition. He even states why he has decided to add the spirits of the Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders to the poem. The phrase "for the ancient poets are in one respect like many modern ladies: let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance" (Lipking 2526) explains Pope's argument throughout the poem. He even playfully pokes fun at Mrs. Arabella Fermor in the letter when he says, "(except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence)" (Lipking 2527), as the poem is based o...
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... attached to mere objects. Pope strives to correct or change the goals of society in order to avoid another episode of conflict over a possession. Perhaps he is simply poking fun at those members of society who are too ignorant to realize that if one flaunts a possession, one must expect the possession to be desired and possibly stolen.
Baines, Paul. The Complete Critical Guide to Alexander Pope. London: Routledge, 2000.
Markley, Robert. "Beyond Consensus: The Rape of the Lock and the Fate of Reading Eighteenth Century Literature." Critical Essays on Alexander Pope. Ed. W. Jackson and R. P. Yoder. New York: Hall, 1993. 69-83.
Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Lawrence Lipking, M. H. Abrams, and S. Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2000. 2525-2544.
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