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Pope And Treatment Of Women

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Women in the 17th and 18th century were supposed to take on the role of the household and were treated poorly without their husbands. They were also supposed to be well educated in medicine in order to take care of illnesses in the family. Few women that were considered noble had enough access to education to allow them to become literate, and others were fortunate enough to receive some schooling and were hardly taught languages and art. In The Rape of the Lock, Pope points out the flaws of women’s place in society, more specifically the young women of high society. The Rape of the Lock came from an event in which a man called “Baron” in the poem, took a some hair from a woman named “Belinda” which caused major issues between the two catholic families. “John Caryll, from a third important Catholic family, asked the young Pope to write a poem which would laugh the two families back into a reconciliation.” (Rippy, P. 2) The poem paints women in an extremely negative light. Pope sees the women in his poem as completely one-dimensional and carefree.

In Canto I, Pope brings up Belinda and explains how long she takes in the restroom by bringing up that she thinks of her toilet as a holy throne and pointing out the time she take on makeup. “’If to her share some female errors fall, / Look on her face and you’ll forget ’em all.’ (Mahony P.6) Pope is saying that she can mess up and get away with it by her appearance alone. Starting at the beginning of the poem the reader can tell that this poem has a misogynistic undertone. Pope goes on to state that bibles are also incorporated into her appearance which goes on to give the image that she is shallow and only using the bible as well as religion to improve her appearance within society. “Pope criticizes those who would commodify the ethical heart of Christiantity by making the provocative claim that, like the powders used to beautify Belinda, the Bible may become simply another accessory for those positioning themselves socially–or, perhaps more insidiously, it becomes an ideological tool for a rapidly industrializing society. Pope’s point, one suspects, is that such treatment in fact neuters the ethical message at the heart of the religion.” (Hernandez, P.2) Hernandez supports the idea by saying the whole purpose of religion is made meaningless by using it for social gain.

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When in Hampton Court, the setting for most of the poem, it is described as a place where the Queen sometimes takes counsel and sips tea. This gives the description that the Queen puts socializing and the matters of the government on equal terms. When the lock is stolen Pope states that their screams of the women were equivalent to the death of a dog or their husbands. This makes it obvious that they are taking this way more seriously than it actually is nad they’re priorities are all wrong,“So far, leisure and money have left these people free to take all things seriously, the trivial along with the serious. If cutting off the lock is called a rape, an assault, Belinda would presumably be at least equally upset by a real rape. But the poem gives dark hints that this society, if forced to choose between trivialities and significances, will choose the trivial.” (Hunter, III) When the person that was given the job of protecting Belinda’s hair, looks in her mind, he sees the Baron. Which shows that even though Belinda acts upset that the Baron cut her hair, she is somewhat pleased that she is getting his attention. Belinda isn’t the only female that Pope makes an example of, he also points out a woman named Clarissa.

When the Baron reaches for the scissors that he would cut the lock with, Clarissa provides them without question. She later goes on to state that merit wins the soul and charm only gets the sight. Clarissa had provided the scissors out of “merit” which turns her into a traitor against women as well as a hypocrite. Pope writes this to show his belief that women are unfaithful, not even to their own ideals. To Pope women are easily classified and can be separated into categories. This gives the idea that they can be seen as objects rather than actual people, which lines up with the idea of women at the time. This idea is strengthened by the actions of the Baron. Instead of seeing her as a person to love he only saw the lock as a prize to prove his masculinity. Pope really emphasized masculinity and femininity in Rape of the Lock “According to Michael S. Kimmel, the years between 1688 and 1714 (the years from Pope’s birth to the publication of the five-canto version of the Rape of the Lock) were especially problematic ones for masculinity. Indeed, Kimmel describes nothing less than a masculinity crisis in those years, arguing that changes in the patriarchal family, changing economics of occupations, redefinitions of what women could do in the world of work, and women’s growing ambivalence about marriage led to (or at least announced) a culture wide problematic for masculine identity.” (Hunter,V) This could be why this could be seen as misogynistic, Pope could have been trying to revitalize the idea of masculinity in the patriarchy.

The view of women is primarily negative throughout the poem as shown through the examples in text. Pope’s Rape of the Lock points out the flaws of females such as unfaithfulness and the ability to see the trivial as important and vice versa. Pope could have used this as a way to reach out to the public and not only point out the flaws in their society but also attempt to bring back a primarily male view into society. By doing this he could put females out of a working job and back into the homes. Pope was not only pointing out the error of the society but also the errors of elite women that were part of the society.

Works Cited

  1. Eric Hernandez, Alex. ‘Commodity and religion in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock: Alex Eric Hernandez.’ Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 48, no. 3, 2008, p. 569+. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://ezproxy.templejc.edu:2516/apps/doc/A184613116/GLS?u=txshracd2561&sid=GLS&xid=8d97300a. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020.
  2. Hunter, J. Paul. ‘Manliness and Poetry, and Pope: Gender, Language, Nation.’ Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 272, Gale, 2018. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://ezproxy.templejc.edu:2516/apps/doc/H1420124542/GLS?u=txshracd2561&sid=GLS&xid=766c7ef0. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020. Originally published in Imagining Selves, edited by Rivka Swenson and Elise Lauterbach, U of Delaware P, 2008, pp. 170-190.
  3. Mahony, Mary. ‘Critical Essay on ‘The Rape of the Lock’.’ Poetry for Students, edited by Jennifer Smith and Elizabeth Thomason, vol. 12, Gale, 2001. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://ezproxy.templejc.edu:2516/apps/doc/H1420035867/GLS?u=txshracd2561&sid=GLS&xid=cf73d5b4. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020.
  4. Rippy, Frances Mayhew. ‘The Rape of the Lock: Overview.’ Reference Guide to English Literature, edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick, 2nd ed., St. James Press, 1991. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://ezproxy.templejc.edu:2516/apps/doc/H1420006506/GLS?u=txshracd2561&sid=GLS&xid=d95d000e. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020.
  5. Wood, Nigel. ‘Mocking the Heroic? A Context for The Rape of the Lock.’ Poetry Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 184, Gale, 2017. Gale Literature Resource Center, https://ezproxy.templejc.edu:2516/apps/doc/H1420122292/GLS?u=txshracd2561&sid=GLS&xid=5c65b968. Accessed 23 Apr. 2020. Originally published in Tennessee Studies in Literature, vol. 37, 1995, pp. 233-255.

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Pope And Treatment Of Women. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/pope-and-treatment-of-women/
“Pope And Treatment Of Women.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/pope-and-treatment-of-women/
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Pope And Treatment Of Women [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/pope-and-treatment-of-women/
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