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Critical Analysis of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock

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Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock is a satirical and regularly demeaning appear at the roles of girl in 17th century English society. While Pope pokes interesting at the superficial personality of aristocratic society, he looks to in unique core of attention on the rituals of womanhood and is mainly condescending toward women. His humor is often offensive and factors to a greater huge view and interpretation of the cost of women in society. By focusing on a particular negative incident, now now not very serious via many standards, Pope dismisses the anger that the young female ought to rightfully ride and turns the complete episode into a laughable charade. Pope manages to marginalize women, in unique Belinda, by means of the usage of turning this incident-the de-locking-into a mock epic, mocking Belinda and discounting her worth.

The popular interpretation has stated that Pope wrote this story ‘in the hope that a little laughter might also serve to soothe ruffled tempers’ after a real-life incident involving a stolen lock of hair had taken location (2233). The editors of the Norton Anthology of English Literature suggest that because of ant through Pope’s mock-heroic epic style, the reader is compelled to ‘compare small matters with great’ (2233). It is said that although Pope ‘laughs at this world and its creatures-and remembers that a grimmer, darker world surrounds it (3.19-24, 5.145-48)-he makes us very an lousy lot conscious of its splendor and charm’ (2234). Unfortunately, I can no longer purchase this argument due to the reality it does now not appear that Pope at all takes this incident seriously. Instead, he makes use of it as an risk to criticize women and poke interesting at common female thought and practices. I absolutely noticed few moments when the superiority of malehood used to be once in any way threatened or ridiculed.

Pope writes an epigraph, directed to the woman involved, Ms. Arabella Fermor, which suggests that the poem used to be posted at her request, although in certainty the writing of this poem was once suggested to Pope with the useful resource of one of his male pals (2234). By implying otherwise, Pope is making it appear as although Ms. Fermor loved and even requested to be mocked. If Pope’s intent was to unite the two feuding households (Lord Petre and the Fermors) by way of presenting a story over which the two must giggle together (Pope 2233), he is severely disappointing. It is doubtful whether or no longer or now no longer Ms. Fermor cherished this story and ended her anger, on the other hand from a late twentieth-century perspective, it is fantastically not going that insulting any character so forcefully need to have any top notch impact.

From the story, one may additionally acquire that the aristocracy at this time lived a then again frivolous life. Women spent heaps of their day making geared up themselves for social points (5.19). Beauty will grow to be very important, as do appearances- each physical and social. The benefit of splendor in this poem can no longer be overstated. Pope writes, ‘If to her share some girl errors fall, Look on her face, and you’ll overlook about ‘em all’ (2.17-8). The beautiful lady Belinda is regarded as larger virtuous than others genuinely due to the truth of her bodily features. Showing social grace and enchantment is more fundamental for female than some thing mental they ought to say. Despite our readiness to brush aside this life as useless and worthless, it is viable to see that these girls took their roles and obligations very seriously. It is also quite apparent that these kinds of conduct were predicted of girl and that a female who did now now not conform would be an unwelcomed outcast. For example, the Sylphs are geared up to go to warfare for Belinda to keep her beauty and chastity, and terrific punishment is threatened for any fairy that does no longer guard these virtues (2.91-136).

A female’s self confidence and viable of social freedom are to be determined through the fulfillment of a culturally relevant social life, fraught with rituals and mores for behavior between the sexes. When describing Belinda’s splendor routine, Pope writes, ‘The inferior priestess, at her altar’s side, Trembling starts offevolved the sacred rites of Pride’ (1.127-8). For women, pleasure is to be attained through the rituals of beauty. When Belinda is compelled to deal with her unexpected hair loss, she experiences a fantastic deal of disgrace and public humiliation. She exclaims, ‘Oh, had I as a substitute unadmired remained In some love isle, or a long way away northern land. . . There saved my charms hid from mortal eye, Like roses that in deserts bloom and die’ (4.153-158). She wants she had been hid from society and desires to hide her face in shame.

Belinda’s priorities might also be out of whack with today’s society; however, the reality remains that this was the kind of life-style afforded to her with the useful resource of her status. As a woman, the courtly lifestyle was as soon as the tremendous risk for a totally comfortable life. Of path Belinda would and must be upset via the use of such a ‘trivial’ matter. Her sole doable of livelihood and success has been shattered by using using the ‘rape of the lock.’ Like many rape victims and female socialized into society today, Belinda tries to rationalize this incident by means of way of blaming herself. She remembers how she was once forewarned about her fate, on the other hand she chosen to omit reason. She says she ought to have acknowledged higher (4.165-166). Here, the lady is now not entirely blaming herself, but professing her very own internalized stupidity and implying her inferior status. She cries out from the pain she is experiencing and shouts, ‘Oh hadst thou, cruel! Been content to seize Hairs much less in sight, or any hairs however these!’ (4.175-6). The sexual undertones here are not very challenging to see. It seems that Belinda would have desired to be raped sexually, the place she would have suffered solely personal humiliation, than to have a precious lock of her hair cut off publicly. By this incident, Belinda is defaced now not solely privately then again additionally publicly. Everyone can it appears that evidently see that Belinda has this imperative defect. It is as although the Scarlet ‘A’ has been branded on her chest. Her ‘flaw’ has develop to be obvious to everyone; hence, the sufferer is victimized again with the useful resource of society.

For these reasons, it is more often than not unfair of Pope to paint this sickening, one-sided picture of Belinda and this incident. From Pope, we see no lady character improvement whatsoever, and all mentions of Belinda’s persona are negative. We see a photo of a male blinded via the unrequited love a supposedly coquettish woman. The male in this story is portrayed now not as a rapist, as the title of the poem would suggest, but as a sufferer bitten by using using the love worm and stung through capability of Belinda’s piercing eyes.

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Like the tendency these days to blame the rape victim, we blame Belinda for her coyness and merciless wit. It is her fault that guys can no longer manipulate themselves round her. She is honestly too amazing and full of her sly seductiveness. Women are expected to stay chaste and pure in order to continue to be honorable, but girls who refuse guys are considered as prudes and deserving of sick will.

The madonnawhore trouble is performed out in the course of this story. Many mentions of Belinda’s virginity are made, simply as her refusals are given full attention. Pope writes, ‘And she who scorns a man die a maid; What then stays then again properly our electricity to use, And maintain real humor however whate’er we lose? (5.28-30). The woman who remains actual to her advantage anticipate to be sad and barring a mate. Likewise, according to Pope, a lady should take a look at to laugh at her non-public victimization and secondary recognition due to the fact it is herbal and there is little she can do to stop it. Because Belinda suggests pleasure in prevailing the card game and beating out men in a male domain, morality dictates that she have to be punished and set straight about her ‘rightful’ place. The didactic lesson is clear. A lady have to never expect to be equal to a man.

The male worried here, the Peer, shows no regret for his actions. He tells Belinda, ‘’This hand, which acquired it shall continually wear’. He spoke and speakme in proud triumph unfold the long-contended honors of her head’ (4.138-140). He is mocking Belinda and belittles and victimizes her even larger with the aid of his flagrant disrespect for her body as private property. He values the lock of hair as a prize-a prisoner of battle or combat booty. This hair symbolizes that Belinda (all women) is (are) certainly a sufferer and a loser in this combat between the sexes. Like rapists today, the Peer does no longer allow Belinda the proper to possess her private body. By mocking this fact, Pope is excusing this man from his accountability and displaying that this type of violation is acceptable. When Pope invokes the fairies in the establishing of the poem, he has the sprite Ariel say, ‘Warned by using using the Sylph, O pious maid, beware! This to expose is all thy guardian can: Beware of all, then again most pay interest of Man!’ (1.112-114). Man is to be viewed through female with at least some bit of trepidation. Through this, men’s violent or irrational conduct would possibly also be naturalized and women’s feature as sufferer and secondary Other may also additionally emerge as expected, naturalized and internalized.

More generally, Pope turns this story spherical to show how the girl is at fault and loses in the struggle of the sexes due to the reality of her strongly implied inferiority. Pope focuses on the flaws and weaknesses of lady and makes use of this as an rationalization and justification for women’s secondary reputation in society. In Canto 5, as Pope essential factors the battles of war, he judges the really worth of guys and women. He writes, ‘Now love suspends his golden scales I air, Weighs the men’s wits in opposition to lady’s hair; The dubious beam long nods from aspect to side; At size the wits mount up, the hairs subside’ (5.71-74). Pope bases his cost equations on the mind of guys versus the splendor of women. Women are to be judged now not for their brains however for their bodily features- a fact which makes Pope’s mocking fashion even more disturbing. He name callings Belinda and other girls for their rituals of beauty, regardless of the truth that this is how they are to be judged. Would Pope mock a man for studying a e book or practising his elocution skills? Surely not!

Pope’s mindset nearer to ladies is obvious before one even begins offevolved the poem. In his letter to Arabella Fermor, he writes, ‘I comprehend how disagreeable it is to make use of hard phrases formerly than a lady. . .’ (2234). He moreover states that it is in the nature of ‘modern ladies’ to ‘let an movement be by no means so trivial in itself, they usually make it show up of the utmost importance’ (2234). This act is no longer so trivial when one considers the broader social implications of allowing this type of behavior. To supply men free reign in society to abuse and assault the personhood of female is a gross injustice. Ms. Fermor is justified in being irritated and defending herself towards the predatory will of a self-centered man.

Unfortunately, Pope does now now not feel the equal way. In describing Belinda’s anger, the creator goes to tremendous lengths to paint her as a witch with almost supernatural characteristics. Pope makes use of the Cave of Spleen, a variety of virtual fact hell, to supply an clarification for the ensuing argument between Belinda and the Peer. He speaks in some aspect of Thaletris-an Amazonian type female who enjoys fighting. It is fascinating that even Thaletris experiences some doubts about whether or not or not or no longer she must help Belinda who ‘burns with more than mortal ire’ (4.93). Thaletris exclaims that she can already see that Belinda’s honor is lost and that she has develop to be without delay defamed and deflowered through this act (4.105-116). To keep their personal social appearances, her friends need to desolate tract her or face this equal kind of degradation. Thaletris have to examine whether or not or no longer supporting Belinda is actually really worth her while.

Thaletris tends to preserve male characteristics and subscribe to some male-dictated norms, while rejecting men and distinctive male-determined mores; therefore, she is the shape of female that is to be most feared and scorned by the use of men. Thaletris, whilst no longer as such, represents the truely free girl and is an early feminist character. Thatletris’ personality is divided amongst the different woman characters and is used in reality to portray the supposed vengeful, spiteful, and utterly illogical persona of women. Her feminist standards can also be rejected today, as she seems to reject femininity and scorns ‘feminine’ females; then again she represents the sole sturdy woman characteristic in the story. Thaletris’ militaristic notions about existence and her unbridled sexuality lead her to consider Belinda a ‘prude’ (5.36). She can now no longer take shipping of Belinda as a fellow sister, free to make her private non-public choices, on the other hand ought to nonetheless reject her on certain grounds.

All in all, Pope’s characterization of lady and his satirical telling of this incident paint a very terrible photo of women. Women are verified as conniving, untrustful, illogical, and most importantly, inferior to men. Pope ridicules Belinda’s (Ms. Fermor’s) anger and does now not show up to understand why girl may additionally favor to get so aggravated over such a ‘trivial’ matter. He does now now not recognize woman autonomy and buys in to the madonnawhore perception of women. The Rape of the Lock does a terrific injustice to women and only serves to perpetuate negative stereotypes and generalizations about woman character.

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Critical Analysis of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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