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Alexander Pope’s the Rape of the Lock Essay Paper

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The Rape of the Lock begins with a transition sketching the topic of the verse form and raising the assistance of the Muse. Then the Sun ( “Sol” ) appears to originate the easy forenoon modus operandis of a affluent family. Lapdogs shake themselves awake. bells begin to pealing. and although it is already noon. Belinda still sleeps. She has been woolgathering. and we learn that “her guardian Sylph. ” Ariel. has sent the dream. The dream is of a fine-looking young person who tells her that she is protected by “unnumbered Spirits”—an ground forces of supernatural existences who one time lived on Earth as human adult females. The young person explains that they are the unseeable defenders of women’s celibacy. although the recognition is normally erroneously given to “Honor” instead than to their Godhead stewardship. Of these Spirits. one peculiar group—the Sylphs. who dwell in the air—serve as Belinda’s personal defenders ; they are devoted. lover-like. to any adult female that “rejects world. ” and they understand and reward the amour propres of an elegant and frivolous lady like Belinda.

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Ariel. the head of all Belinda’s arch defenders. warns her in the dream that “some apprehension event” is traveling to bechance her that twenty-four hours. though he can state her nil more specific than that she should “beware of Man! ” Then Belinda awakes. to the creaming lingua of her lapdog. Shock. Upon the bringing of a billet-doux. or love-letter. she forgets all about the dream. She so proceeds to her dressing tabular array and goes through an luxuriant rite of dressing. in which her ain image in the mirror is described as a “heavenly image. ” a “goddess. ” The Sylphs. unobserved. help their charge as she prepares herself for the day’s activities.

Comment

The gap of the verse form establishes its mock-heroic manner. Pope introduces the conventional heroic topics of love and war and includes an supplication to the Muse and a dedication to the adult male ( the historical John Caryll ) who commissioned the verse form. Yet the tone already indicates that the high earnestness of these traditional subjects has suffered a diminishment. The 2nd line confirms in explicit footings what the first line already suggests: the “am’rous causes” the verse form describes are non comparable to the expansive love of Grecian heroes but instead stand for a trivialized version of that emotion. The “contests” Pope alludes to will turn out to be “mighty” merely in an dry sense. They are card-games and coquettish hassles. non the great conflicts of heroic tradition. Belinda is non. like Helen of Troy. “the face that launched a 1000 ships” ( see the SparkNote on The Iliad ) . but instead a face that—although besides beautiful—prompts a batch of dandified bunk.

The first two verse-paragraphs emphasize the amusing wrongness of the heroic poem manner ( and matching mentality ) to the topic at manus. Pope achieves this disagreement at the degree of the line and half-line ; the reader is meant to brood on the mutual exclusiveness between the two sides of his parallel preparations. Therefore. in this universe. it is “little men” who in “tasks so bold… engage” ; and “soft bosoms” are the dwelling-place for “mighty fury. ” In this startling apposition of the petit larceny and the expansive. the former is existent while the latter is dry. In mock heroic poem. the high heroic manner works non to ennoble the topic but instead to expose and roast it. Therefore. the basic sarcasm of the manner supports the substance of the poem’s sarcasm. which attacks the ill-conceived values of a society that takes little affairs for serious 1s while neglecting to go to to issues of echt importance. With Belinda’s dream. Pope introduces the “machinery” of the poem—the supernatural powers that influence the action from behind the scenes.

Here. the sprites that watch over Belinda are meant to mime the Gods of the Greek and Roman traditions. who are sometimes benevolent and sometimes malicious. but ever closely involved in earthly events. The strategy besides makes usage of other ancient hierarchies and systems of order. Ariel explains that women’s liquors. when they die. return “to their first Elements. ” Each female personality type ( these types correspond to the four temper ) is converted into a peculiar sort of fairy. These dwarfs. sylphs. salamanders. and nymphs. in bend. are associated with the four elements of Earth. air. fire. and H2O. The airy sylphs are those who in their life-times were “light Coquettes” ; they have a peculiar concern for Belinda because she is of this type. and this will be the facet of feminine nature with which the verse form is most concerned. Indeed. Pope already begins to chalk out this character of the “coquette” in this initial canto. He draws the portrayal indirectly. through features of the Sylphs instead than of Belinda herself.

Their precedences reveal that the cardinal concerns of muliebrity. at least for adult females of Belinda’s category. are societal 1s. Woman’s “joy in aureate Chariots” indicates an compulsion with gaudery and superficial luster. while “love of Ombre. ” a stylish card game. suggests frivolousness. The titillating charge of this societal universe in bend prompts another cardinal concern: the protection of celibacy. These are adult females who value above all the chance get marrieding to advantage. and they have learned at an early age how to advance themselves and pull strings their suers without compromising themselves. The Sylphs go an fable for the mannered conventions that govern female societal behaviour. Principles like award and celibacy have become no more than another portion of conventional interaction.

Pope makes it clear that these adult females are non carry oning themselves on the footing of abstract moral rules. but are governed by an luxuriant societal mechanism—of which the Sylphs cut a fitting imitation. And while Pope’s technique of using supernatural machinery allows him to review this state of affairs. it besides helps to maintain the sarcasm visible radiation and to acquit single adult females from excessively terrible a judgement. If Belinda has all the typical female idiosyncrasies. Pope wants us to acknowledge that it is partially because she has been educated and trained to move in this manner. The society as a whole is every bit much to fault as she is. Nor are work forces exempt from this judgement. The competition among the immature Godheads for the attending of beautiful ladies is depicted as a conflict of amour propre. as “wigs with wigs. with sword-knots sword-knots strive. ”

Pope’s phrases here expose an absurd attending to exhibitions of pride and fanfare. He emphasizes the senselessness of know aparting so closely between things and people that are basically the same in all of import ( and even most unimportant ) respects. Pope’s portraiture of Belinda at her dressing table introduces mock-heroic motives that will run through the verse form. The scene of her toilette is rendered foremost as a spiritual sacrament. in which Belinda herself is the priestess and her image in the looking glass is the Goddess she serves. This lampoon of the spiritual rites before a conflict gives manner. so. to another sort of mock-epic scene. that of the ritualized armament of the hero. Combs. pins. and cosmetics take the topographic point of arms as “awful Beauty puts on all its weaponries. ”

Canto 2
Drumhead

Belinda. equaling the Sun in her glow. sets out by boat on the river Thames for Hampton Court Palace. She is accompanied by a party of glitzy ladies ( “Nymphs” ) and gentlemen. but is far and off the most dramatic member of the group. Pope’s description of her appeals includes “the scintillating Cross she wore” on her “white chest. ” her “quick” eyes and “lively looks. ” and the easy grace with which she bestows her smilings and attendings equally among all the adoring invitees. Her crowning glorifications. though. are the two coils that dangle on her “iv’ry cervix. ” These coils are described as love’s mazes. specifically designed to entrap any hapless bosom who might acquire entangled in them.

One of the immature gentlemen on the boat. the Baron. peculiarly admires Belinda’s locks. and has determined to steal them for himself. We read that he rose early that forenoon to construct an communion table to love and pray for success in this undertaking. He sacrificed several items of his former fondnesss. including supporters. baseball mitts. and billet-doux ( love-letters ) . He so prostrated himself before a pyre built with “all the trophies of his former loves. ” fanning its fires with his “am’rous suspirations. ” The Gods listened to his supplication but decided to allow lone half of it. As the pleasure-boat continues on its manner. everyone is unworried except Ariel. who remembers that some bad event has been foretold for the twenty-four hours. He summons an ground forces of sylphs. who assemble around him in their changeable beauty.

He reminds them with great ceremonial that one of their responsibilities. after modulating heavenly organic structures and the conditions and guarding the British sovereign. is “to tend the Fair” : to maintain ticker over ladies’ pulverizations. aromas. coil. and vesture. and to “assist their blooms. and animate their poses. ” Therefore. since “some dire disaster” threatens Belinda. Ariel assigns her an extended troop of escorts. Brillante is to guard her earrings. Momentilla her ticker. and Crispissa her locks. Ariel himself will protect Shock. the lapdog. A set of 50 Sylphs will guard the all important half-slip. Ariel pronounces that any sylph who neglects his assigned responsibility will be badly punished. They disperse to their stations and delay for destiny to blossom.

Comment

From the first. Pope describes Belinda’s beauty as something Godhead. an appraisal which she herself corroborates in the first canto when she creates. at least metaphorically. an communion table to her ain image. This congratulations is surely in some sense ironical. reflecting negatively on a system of public values in which external features rank higher than moral or rational 1s. But Pope besides shows a existent fear for his heroine’s physical and societal appeals. claiming in lines 17–18 that these are obliging plenty to do one to bury her “female mistakes. ” Surely he has some involvement in blandishing Arabella Fermor. the real-life adult female on whom Belinda is based ; in order for his verse form to accomplish the coveted rapprochement. it must non pique ( see “Context” . Pope besides exhibits his grasp for the ways in which physical beauty is an art signifier: he recognizes. with a mixture of animadversion and awe. the fact that Belinda’s legendary locks of hair. which appear so natural and self-generated. are really a carefully contrived consequence.

In this. the enigmas of the lady’s dressing tabular array are kindred. possibly. to Pope’s ain literary art. which he describes elsewhere as “nature to advantage dress’d. ” If the secret mechanisms and techniques of female beauty get at least a ephemeral nod of grasp from the writer. he however suggests that the general human preparedness to idolize beauty sums to a sort of profanation. The cross that Belinda wears around her cervix serves a more cosmetic than symbolic or spiritual map. Because of this. he says. it can be adored by “Jews” and “Infidels” every bit readily as by Christians. And there is some ambiguity about whether any of the supporters are truly valuing the cross itself. or the “white breast” on which it lies—or the felicitous consequence of the whole. The Baron. of class. is the most important of those who worship at the communion table of Belinda’s beauty. The ritual forfeits he performs in the pre-dawn hours are another mock-heroic component of the verse form. miming the heroic tradition of giving to the Gods before an of import conflict or journey. and drapes his undertaking with an absurdly expansive import that really merely exposes its pettiness.

The fact that he discards all his other love items in these readyings reveals his unpredictability as a lover. Earnest supplication. in this parodic scene. is replaced by the self-indulgent suspirations of the lover. By holding the Gods grant merely half of what the Baron asks. Pope alludes to the heroic poem convention by which the favour of the Gods is merely a assorted approval: in heroic poem verse forms. to win the sponsorship of one God is to incur the wrath of another ; Godhead gifts. such as immortality. can look a approval but become a expletive. Yet in this verse form. the branchings of a supplication “half” granted are negligible instead than tragic ; it simply means that he will pull off to steal merely one lock instead than both of them. In the first canto. the spiritual imagination environing Belinda’s preparing rites gave manner to a militaristic amour propre. Here. the same form holds. Her coil are compared to a trap absolutely calibrated to entrap the enemy. Yet the character of female demureness is such that it seeks at the same time to pull and drive. so that the opposite number to the luring coils is the formidable half-slip.

This unmentionable is described as a defensive armament comparable to the Shield of Achilles ( see Scroll XVIII of The Iliad ) . and supported in its map of protecting the maiden’s celibacy by the unseeable might of 50 Sylphs. The Sylphs. who are Belinda’s defenders. are basically charged to protect her non from failure but from excessively great a success in pulling work forces. This self-contradictory state of affairs dramatizes the contradictory values and motivations implied in the era’s sexual conventions. In this canto. the sexual fable of the verse form begins to come into fuller position. The rubric of the verse form already associates the film editing of Belinda’s hair with a more expressed sexual conquering. and here Pope cultivates that suggestion. He multiplies his sexually metaphorical linguistic communication for the incident. adding words like “ravish” and “betray” to the “rape” of the rubric.

He besides slips in some commentary on the deductions of his society’s sexual mores. as when he comments that “when success a Lover’s labor attends. / few ask. if fraud or force attain’d his terminals. ” When Ariel speculates about the possible signifiers the “dire disaster” might take. he includes a breach of celibacy ( “Diana’s law” ) . the breakage of China ( another allusion to the loss of virginity ) . and the staining of award or a gown ( the two incommensurate events could go on every bit easy and by chance ) . He besides mentions some junior-grade societal “disasters” against which the Sylphs are every bit prepared to contend. like losing a ball ( here. every bit grave as losing supplications ) or losing the lapdog. In the Sylphs’ defensive attempts. Belinda’s half-slip is the battleground that requires the most extended munitions. This fact furthers the thought that the colza of the lock stands in for a actual colza. or at least represents a menace to her celibacy more serious than merely the mere larceny of a coil.

Drumhead

The boat arrives at Hampton Court Palace. and the ladies and gentlemen disembark to their formal amusements. After a pleasant unit of ammunition of chew the fating and chitchat. Belinda sits down with two of the work forces to a game of cards. They play ombre. a three-handed game of fast ones and trumps. slightly like span. and it is described in footings of a epic conflict: the cards are troops battling on the “velvet plain” of the card-table. Belinda. under the alert attention of the Sylphs. begins favourably. She declares spades as trumps and leads with her highest cards. sure of success. Soon. nevertheless. the manus takes a bend for the worse when “to the Baron destiny inclines the field” : he catches her male monarch of nines with his queen and so leads back with his high diamonds. Belinda is in danger of being beaten. but recovers in the last fast one so as to merely hardly win back the sum she bid.

The following ritual amusement is the helping of java. The curving bluess of the steaming java remind the Baron of his purpose to try Belinda’s lock. Clarissa draws out her scissors for his usage. as a lady would build up a knight in a love affair. Taking up the scissors. he tries three times to nip the lock from behind without Belinda seeing. The Sylphs enterprise furiously to step in. blowing the hair out of harm’s manner and tweaking her diamond earring to do her bend around. Ariel. in a last-minute attempt. additions entree to her encephalon. where he is surprised to happen “an earthly lover skulking at her bosom. ” He gives up protecting her so ; the deduction is that she in secret wants to be violated. Finally. the shears near on the coil. A make bolding sylph leaps in between the blades and is cut in two ; but being a supernatural animal. he is rapidly restored. The title is done. and the Baron exults while Belinda’s shrieks fill the air.

Comment

This canto is full of authoritative illustrations of Pope’s consummate usage of the epic pair. In presenting Hampton Court Palace. he describes it as the topographic point where Queen Anne “dost sometimes advocate take—and sometimes tea. ” This line employs a zeugma. a rhetorical device in which a word or phrase modifies two other words or phrases in a parallel building. but modifies each in a different manner or harmonizing to a different sense. Here. the modifying word is “take” ; it applies to the paralleled footings “counsel” and “tea. ” But one does non “take” tea in the same manner one takes advocate. and the consequence of the zeugma is to demo the royal abode as a topographic point that houses both serious affairs of province and frivolous societal occasions. The reader is asked to contemplate that paradox and to reflect on the comparative value and importance of these two different registries of activity. ( For another illustration of this rhetorical technique. see lines 157–8: “Not louder scream to feel foring Edens are cast. / when hubbies. or when lapdogs breathe their last. ” )

A similar point is made. in a less compact phrasing. in the 2nd and 3rd verse-paragraphs of this canto. Here. against the chitchat and yak of the immature Godheads and ladies. Pope opens a window onto more serious affairs that are happening “meanwhile” and elsewhere. including condemnable tests and executings. and economic exchange. The rendition of the card game as a conflict constitutes an amusing and deft narrative effort. By parodying the conflict scenes of the great heroic poem verse forms. Pope is proposing that the energy and passion one time applied to weather and serious intents is now expended on such undistinguished tests as games and gaming. which frequently become a mere forepart for flirting.

The construction of “the three attempts” by which the lock is cut is a convention of heroic challenges. peculiarly in the love affair genre. The love affair is farther invoked in the image of Clarissa build uping the Baron—not with a existent arm. nevertheless. but with a brace of run uping scissors. Belinda is non a existent antagonist. or class. and Pope makes it kick that her resistance—and. by deduction. her subsequent distress—is to some grade an mannerism. The melodrama of her shriek is complemented by the dry comparing of the Baron’s effort to the conquering of states.

Belinda’s “anxious cares” and “secret passions” after the loss of her lock are equal to the emotions of all who have of all time known “rage. bitterness and desperation. ” After the defeated Sylphs withdraw. an crude dwarf called Umbriel flies down to the “Cave of Spleen. ” ( The lien. an organ that removes disease-causing agents from the blood stream. was traditionally associated with the passions. peculiarly unease ; “spleen” is a equivalent word for “ill-temper. ” ) In his descent he passes through Belinda’s sleeping room. where she lies prostrate with discomposure and the concern. She is attended by “two servants. ” Ill-Nature and Affectation. Umbriel passes safely through this melancholic chamber. keeping a branchlet of “spleenwort” earlier him as a appeal. He addresses the “Goddess of Spleen. ” and returns with a bag of “sighs. shortness of breath. and passions” and a phial of sorrow. heartache. and cryings. He unleashes the first bag on Belinda. fueling her anger and desperation.

There to sympathize with Belinda is her friend Thalestris. ( In Greek mythology. Thalestris is the name of one of the Amazons. a race of warrior adult females who excluded work forces from their society. ) Thalestris delivers a address calculated to further foment Belinda’s outrage and press her to revenge herself. She so goes to Sir Plume. “her boyfriend. ” to inquire him to demand that the Baron return the hair. Sir Plume makes a weak and slang-filled address. to which the Baron cavalierly refuses to assent. At this. Umbriel releases the contents of the staying phial. throwing Belinda into a tantrum of sorrow and self-pity. With “beauteous grief” she bemoans her destiny. regrets non holding heeded the dream-warning. and laments the lonely. pathetic province of her exclusive staying coil.

Comment

The canto opens with a list of illustrations of “rage. bitterness. and desperation. ” comparing on an equal terms the poignancy of male monarchs imprisoned in conflict. of adult females who become old amahs. of evil-doers who die without being saved. and of a adult female whose frock is disheveled. By puting such disparate kinds of exasperation in analogue. Pope accentuates the absolute necessity of delegating them to some rank of moral import. The consequence is to castigate a societal universe that fails to do these differentiations. Umbriel’s journey to the Cave of Spleen mimics the journeys to the underworld made by both Odysseus and Aeneas. Pope uses psychological fable ( for the lien was the place of unease or melancholy ) . as a manner of researching the beginnings and nature of Belinda’s feelings. The presence of Ill-nature and Affectation as servants serves to bespeak that her heartache is less than pure ( “affected” or put-on ) . and that her show of pique has hidden motivations. We learn that her sorrow is cosmetic in much the same manner the coil was ; it gives her the juncture. for illustration. to have on a new nightgown.

The address of Thalestris invokes a courtly ethic. She encourages Belinda to believe about the Baron’s misbehavior as an insult to her award. and draws on ideals of gallantry in demanding that Sir Plume challenge the Baron in defence of Belinda’s award. He makes a clutter of the undertaking. demoing how far from courtly behavior this coevals of gentlemen has fallen. Sir Plume’s address is riddled with dandified slang and has none of the logical. moral. or oratorical power that a knight should decently exert. This attending to inquiries of award returns us to the sexual fable of the verse form. The existent danger. Thalestris suggests. is that “the ravisher” might expose the lock and do it a beginning of public humiliation to Belinda and. by association. to her friends. Therefore the existent inquiry is a superficial one—public reputation—rather than the moral jussive mood to celibacy. Belinda’s ain words at the stopping point of the canto corroborate this suggestion ; she exclaims. “Oh. hadst 1000. cruel! been content to prehend / Hairs less in sight. or any hairs but these! ” ( The “hairs less in sight” suggest her pubic hair ) .

Pope is indicating out the grade to which she values outward visual aspect ( whether beauty or repute ) above all else ; she would instead endure a breach to her unity than a breach to her visual aspect. The Baron remains stolid against all the ladies’ cryings and reproaches. Clarissa delivers a address in which she inquiries why a society that so adores beauty in adult females does non besides place a value on “good sense” and “good temper. ” Womans are often called angels. she argues. but without mention to the moral qualities of these animals. Particularly since beauty is needfully so ephemeral. we must hold something more significant and lasting to fall back on. This reasonable. moralising address falls on deaf ears. nevertheless. and Belinda. Thalestris and the remainder ignore her and continue to establish an full-scale onslaught on the piquing Baron.

A helter-skelter hassle ensues. with the dwarf Umbriel presiding in a position of self- felicitation. The gentlemen are slain or revived harmonizing to the smilings and scowls of the just ladies. Belinda and the Baron meet in combat and she emerges winning by peppering him with snuff and pulling her poniard. Having achieved a place of advantage. she once more demands that he return the lock. But the coil has been lost in the pandemonium. and can non be found. The poet avers that the lock has risen to the celestial spheres to go a star ; lotus-eaters may look up to it now for all infinity. In this manner. the poet grounds. it will pull more enviousness than it of all time could on Earth.

Comment

Readers have frequently interpreted Clarissa’s address as the voice of the poet showing the lesson of the narrative. Surely. her oration’s thesis aligns with Pope’s professed undertaking of seting the difference between the two households into a more sensible position. But Pope’s place achieves more complexness than Clarissa’s address. since he has used the juncture of the verse form as a vehicle to critically turn to a figure of broader social issues as good. And Clarissa’s righteous stance loses authorization in visible radiation of the fact that it was she who originally gave the Baron the scissors. Clarissa’s failure to animate a rapprochement proves that the wrangle is itself a sort of coquettish game that all parties are basking. The description of the “battle” has a markedly titillating quality. as ladies and Godheads wallow in their mock-agonies. Sir Plume “draw [ s ] Clarissa down” in a sexual manner. and Belinda “flies” on her enemy with flashing eyes and an titillating ardour. When Pope informs us that the Baron battles on unafraid because he “sought no more than on his enemy to decease. ” the look means that his end all along was sexual consummation.

This concluding conflict is the apogee of the long sequence of mock-heroic military actions. Pope invokes by name the Roman Gods who were most active in warfare. and he alludes every bit good to the Aeneid. comparing the Stoic Baron to Aeneas ( “the Trojan” ) . who had to go forth his love to go the laminitis of Rome. Belinda’s tossing of the snuff makes a perfect turning point. ideally suited to the graduated table of this fiddling conflict. The snuff causes the Baron to sneeze. a amusing and unquestionably unheroic thing for a hero to make. The poniard. excessively. serves nicely: here a poniard is a cosmetic hairpin. non the arm of ancient yearss ( or even of Hamlet’s clip ) . Still. Pope gives the pin an luxuriant history in conformity with the conventions of true heroic poem.

The mock-heroic decision of the verse form is designed to congratulate the lady it alludes to ( Arabella Fermor ) . while besides giving the poet himself due recognition for being the instrument of her immortality. This stoping efficaciously indulges the heroine’s amour propre. even though the verse form has functioned throughout as a review of that amour propre. And no existent moral development has taken topographic point: Belinda is asked to come to footings with her loss through a sort of payoff or distraction that reinforces her fundamentally frivolous mentality. But even in its most derisive minutes. this verse form is a soft one. in which Pope shows a basic understanding with the societal universe in malice of its foolishness and idiosyncrasies. The scorching reviews of his ulterior sarcasms would be much more rigorous and less forgiving.

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