Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 21

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK

Alexander Pope
(1688-1749)

“Favours to none, to all she smiles extends,


Oft she rejects, but never once offends,
Bright as the sun her eyes the gazers strike,
And like the sun, they shine an all alike”
Canto II

1
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
LIFE AND WORKS OF ALEXANDER POPE
Alexander Pope was born in London in 1688. As a Roman Catholic
living during a time of Protestant consolidation in England, he was largely
excluded from the university system and from political life, and suffered
certain social and economic disadvantages because of his religion as well.
He was self-taught to a great extent, and was an assiduous scholar from a
very early age. He learned several languages on his own, and his early verses
were often imitations of poets he admired. His obvious talent found
encouragement from his father, a linen-draper, as well as from literary-
minded friends. At the age of twelve, Pope contracted a form of tuberculosis
that settled in his spine, leaving him stunted and misshapen and causing him
great pain for much of his life. He never married, though he formed a
number of lifelong friendships in London's literary circles, most notably
with Jonathan Swift.
Pope wrote during what is often called the Augustan Age of English
literature (indeed, it is Pope's career that defines the age). During this time,
the nation had recovered from the English Civil Wars and the Glorious
Revolution, and the regained sense of political stability led to a resurgence
of support for the arts. For this reason, many compared the period to the
reign of Augustus in Rome, under whom both Virgil and Horace had found
support for their work. The prevailing taste of the day was neoclassical, and
18th-century English writers tended to value poetry that was learned and
allusive, setting less value on originality than the Romantics would in the
next century. This literature also tended to be morally and often politically
engaged, privileging satire as its dominant mode.
POPE THE ARTIST
Pope wrote during what is often called the Augustan Age of English
literature (indeed, it is Pope’s career that defines the age). During this time,
the nation had recovered from the English Civil Wars and the Glorious
Revolution, and the regained sense of political stability led to a resurgence
of support for the arts. For this reason, many compared the period to the
reign of Augustus in Rome, under whom both Virgil and Horace had found
support for their work. The prevailing taste of the day was neoclassical, and
18th-century English writers tended to value poetry that was learned and
allusive, setting less value on originality than the Romantics would in the
next century. This literature also tended to be morally and often politically
engaged, privileging satire as its dominant mode.

2
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
The Rape of the Lock is one of the most famous English-language
examples of the mock epic. Published in its first version in 1712, when Pope
was only 23 years old, the poem served to forge his reputation as a poet and
remains his most frequently studied work. The inspiration for the poem was
an actual incident among Pope’s acquaintances in which Robert, Lord Peter,
cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, and the young people’s families fell
into strife as a result. John Caryll, another member of this same circle of
prominent Roman Catholics, asked Pope to write a light poem that would
put the episode into a humorous perspective and reconcile the two families.
The poem was originally published in a shorter version, which Pope later
revised. In this later version he added the “machinery,” the retinue of
supernaturals who influence the action as well as the moral of the tale.
After the publication of The Rape of the Lock, Pope spent many years
translating the works of Homer. During the ten years he devoted to this
arduous project, he produced very few new poems of his own but refined his
taste in literature (and his moral, social, and political opinions) to an
incredible degree. When he later recommenced to write original poetry,
Pope struck a more serious tone than the one he gave to The Rape of the
Lock. These later poems are more severe in their moral judgments and more
acid in their satire: Pope's Essay on Man is a philosophical poem on
metaphysics, ethics, and human nature, while in the Dunciad Pope writes a
scathing exposé of the bad writers and pseudo-intellectuals of his day.
In Pope’s “Epistle: To a Lady of the Characteristics of Women”, he
condemns the “wise wretch” of a woman who is not only too wise, but has
“too much spirit”, “too much quickness” and does “too much thinking”. He
bitterly exposes what “Nature conceals” in women by purposefully selecting
“the exactest traits of body or of mind” and finding faults in such specimens
as Narcissa, Flavia, Atossa, and Chloe only to make apparent the high
standards that his own model of perfection, the lady for whom he is writing
the epistle, achieves. And yet even the Lady’s reputation is falsely inflated,
for it is only after listening to his tirade on women that she is honoured by
Pope. The Lady claims “women have no characters at all” in attempts of
consoling him for being the “nothing so true” that a woman has “once let
fall”. She convinces him that the rejection he has faced is unworthy of the
dejection he experiences, observable through his bitter, angry tone
throughout the poem. His rejection is a “matter too soft a lasting mark to
bear” and yet in the first fifteen lines he is not an emotional participant but a
cold, jealous observer of the very setting he has created, a situation in which

3
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
he yearns to exist. “I must paint it,” he says, intentionally setting himself
apart from scene.
He lets his “folly grow romantic” through capturing an image of his
ideal, and yet here in the very first lines of the poem he shies away even
from any sort of fictitious sexual assertion and instead puts himself in
physical seclusion. When he calls for the ground to be prepared he is
metaphorically referring to the preparation of his own “coloured” emotions
upon the literal canvas that is the text of this poem. Pope could care less
about what he finds to be good and bad characteristics in women, for in this
poem there is an internal struggle for power within Pope between his own
fears and insecurities and his generalized conception of the role of women.
Wanting to be contained by a woman, Pope fears this as impossibility
because of a woman’s seemingly ever-mutating emotions. “Tis to [women’s]
changes [that] half their charms [he] owes”, and yet this instability and
ephemeral nature of women’s passions is what frightens him the most. It is
the Cynthias who are ever changing and the Papillias who fly out of his
reach that frustrate Pope into writing a somewhat misogynistic piece of
work, for the reality of attaining a woman is in itself so impossible, that the
possibility of finding an ever accepting, lasting love is outside of his range
of conception. He wants to be loved and yet he hides from the pain that he is
certain will be further inflicted upon him. The lover of a woman
“purchase[s] pain with all the joy [that she] can give” and yet he will “die of
nothing but a rage to live”.
This is Pope’s ultimate fear- not living fully- and yet without a woman
he is not able to live fully either. He is the “nothing” referred to here, as in
the first line of the poem, for his purpose is to do nothing but live. His
existence is wholly in the verbal entity of “nothing but a rage to live” and yet
it is from this force that Flavia’s lover dies. Man is killing himself by
pursing Flavia’s love, for Pope literally dies of his accord but instead blames
Flavia’s wit as the culprit. Pope condemns a woman’s humour, but goes on
to use Simo’s mate as an example of vulgarity in humour. She “laughs at
Hell” he exclaims and likens her to a fool, and yet his own awe and jealousy
of sin’s “charm is disregarded. Pope wants a woman to contain him in ways
a woman who is “fine by defect and delicately weak” can never do. He
wants to be as desirable as the “good man” over which Fannia is leering, but
he cares not “whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it”, for he simply desires
to be the one who charms. Parallels can be drawn to Genesis here, for like
the serpent that lures Eve to eat the forbidden apple from the Tree of
Knowledge, the sinner’s charms are at work.

4
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
Similarly the saint is alluring with the appeal of moral rectitude, God
being an implied force here, and also Zeus is referred to as the Swan who
seduces Leda. Evil and good act in one and the same way, merely as a
process of gaining love and what's more- respect. Although Pope paints a
light scene with purity from “naked Leda” and “simpering angels, palms,
and harps divine”, he disregards both of these processes of gaining women
and instead focuses on the physical attainment of the woman. In numerous
accounts, Pope expresses how he is “fearful to offend” women, and yet by
charming women under the false pretences of either being rebelliously
wicked or supremely good, he no longer is at the mercy of women but gains
power and thus control through seduction of the mind. However this is only
a reality in Pope’s fantasy scene, in actuality it is women who have gained
power over men through the same methods of seduction that Pope mentions,
and unlike Pope, have been successful in controlling the opposite sex. Pope
writes this poem in response to his failed attempt at love, but with his bitter
realization that the reception of love is forever forsaken, “Love, if it makes
her yield, must make her hate”, he recognizes that the power of love is itself
feminine and thus the power of love that he craves will always be in a
woman’s control. With venomous jealousy, Pope recounts the story of
Calypso who “without virtue, without beauty, charmed” Odysseus and his
men. Calypso “touched the brink of all [that] we [men] hate”, and yet what
is truly hated is simply the subordination of men to a woman. Pope’s
insecurities are exposed when he exclaims that Philomede with “soft
passion, and taste refined”, “makes her hearty meal upon a dunce”. He is
afraid that he will be made a fool out of love, for in loving a woman he will
be submitting to her. In submitting to her, he naturally resents her.
This explains why Narcissa is at once applauded for her “tolerably
mild” nature, and why many lines such as these tend to glorify the domestic,
submissive women in this poem. Pope, like Papilla, too is “wedded to [his]
amorous spark” and yet he finds it easier to blame women for what can only
be labelled as his own failure for personal fulfilment, for he lacks the power
over women that women conversely have over him. Offend her, and she
knows not to forgive; oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live: But die,
and she’ll adore you-Then the bust And temple rise- then fall again to dust.
Pope can only gain love in death, and yet even that is only for an ephemeral
moment. In falling to dust he again becomes nothing, for he is a forgotten
memory of someone who was never loved. He is nothing more than dust,
worthless. Pope remains bitter about the loveless women who abandoned
him and let him become “nothing” in their Metaphysical presence, and again
creates a fantasy where he envisions that they “regret [what was] lost” but
5
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
pretend they don’t. Pope rejoices in the literary deconstruction of the women
that destroyed him, but he too ironically fits his own description of the bitter
ladies who were “young without lovers, old without a friend”. With this
proclamation, Pope suddenly describes the Lady as a “sober moon”, serene,
virginal and modest. Stripped of her sexual powers over him, the Lady is no
force to be reckoned with. He says the Lady is “softer than a man”, but goes
on to state that she has the same characteristics of a man and still even more
characteristics specific to a woman. By comparing her to a man, he has
elevated her to the status of a man, perhaps an even higher echelon than
man, but becoming insecure of a her supremacy in relation to himself, he
singles out the one attribute he favours most in his own Lady Blouth. She is
“a woman seen in private life...Bred to disguise, in public”.
By making her importance appear more tarnished, he is able to boost his
own perception of power. He references woman's subservience to men only
to boost men’s own egos and false senses of authority. He recognizes this by
outright stating that no matter what type of lady, whether she is submissive
or authoritative, that which makes a true lady is the “charm” with which she
manages herself. Pope uses this word intentionally to note the shift in power,
for he originally uses that word exclusively to describe a man’s seduction of
a woman in his fantasy first scene. He celebrates the Lady’s good humour
and wit and says very poignantly that she is a contradiction. She “never
shows she rules” and yet she is able to manoeuvre her man in ways in which
he does not even realize. This strategy helps her charming “submitting
sways” that do not reflect in her own submission but in that of her spouse.
Pope is not dense, and fortunately or not, he is not Aphrodite’s dunce, but he
recognizes the power relationships for what they are and does his best to
differentiate himself from the “dross” for the noblewomen and finally
attempts to redeem himself as a poet, not as a man.

6
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
A CRITIQUE OF THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
Belinda arises to prepare for the day’s social activities after sleeping
late. Her guardian sylph, Ariel, warned her in a dream that some disaster will
befall her, and promises to protect her to the best of his abilities. Belinda
takes little notice of this oracle, however. After an elaborate ritual of
dressing and primping, she travels on the Thames River to Hampton Court
Palace, an ancient royal residence outside of London, where a group of
wealthy young socialites are gathering for a party. Among them is the Baron
who has already made up his mind to steal a lock of Belinda's hair. He has
risen early to perform and elaborate set of prayers and sacrifices to promote
success in this enterprise. When the partygoers arrive at the palace, they
enjoy a tense game of cards, which Pope describes in mock-heroic terms as a
battle. This is followed by a round of coffee. Then the Baron takes up a pair
of scissors and manages, on the third try, to cut off the coveted lock of
Belinda’s hair. Belinda is furious. Umbriel a mischievous gnome, journeys
down to the Cave of Spleen to procure a sack of sighs and a flask of tears
which he then bestows on the heroine to fan the flames of her ire. Clarissa,
who had aided the Baron in his crime, now urges Belinda to give up her
anger in favour of good humour and good sense, moral qualities that will
outlast her vanities. But Clarissa's moralizing falls on deaf ears and Belinda
initiates a scuffle between the ladies and the gentlemen, in which she
attempts to recover the severed curl. The lock is lost in the confusion of this
mock battle, however; the poet consoles the bereft Belinda with the
suggestion that it has been taken up into the heavens and immortalized as a
constellation.
The Rape of the Lock is one of the most celebrated English-language
examples of the mock epic. Published in its first version in 1712, when Pope
was only 23 years old, the poem served to forge his reputation as a poet and
remains his most frequently studied work. The inspiration for the poem was
an actual incident among Pope's acquaintances in which Robert, Lord Petre,
cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, and the young people’s families fell
into strife as a result. John Caryll, another member of this same circle of
prominent Roman Catholics, asked Pope to write a light poem that would
put the episode into a humorous perspective and reconcile the two families.
The poem was originally published in a shorter version, which Pope later
revised. In this later version he added the “machinery,” the retinue of
supernaturals who influence the action as well as the moral of the tale.

7
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
After the publication of The Rape of the Lock, Pope spent many years
translating the works of Homer. During the ten years he devoted to this
arduous project, he produced very few new poems of his own but refined his
taste in literature (and his moral, social, and political opinions) to an
incredible degree. When he later recommenced to write original poetry,
Pope struck a more serious tone than the one he gave to The Rape of the
Lock. These later poems are more severe in their moral judgments and more
acid in their satire: Pope's Essay on Man is a philosophical poem on
metaphysics, ethics, and human nature, while in the Dunciad Pope writes a
scathing exposé of the bad writers and pseudo-intellectuals of his day.
The Rape of the Lock is a humorous indictment of the vanities and
idleness of 18th-century high society. Basing his poem on a real incident
among families of his acquaintance, Pope intended his verses to cool hot
tempers and to encourage his friends to laugh at their own folly.
The poem is perhaps the most outstanding example in the English
language of the genre of mock epic. The epic had long been considered one
of the most serious of literary forms; Milton had applied it, in the classical
period, to the lofty subject matter of love and war, and, more recently, to the
intricacies of the Christian faith. The strategy of Pope's mock-epic is not to
mock the form itself, but to mock his society in its very failure to rise to epic
standards, exposing its pettiness by casting it against the grandeur of the
traditional epic subjects and the bravery and fortitude of epic heroes: Pope’s
mock-heroic treatment in The Rape of the Lock underscores the
ridiculousness of a society in which values have lost all proportion, and the
trivial is handled with the gravity and solemnity that ought to be accorded to
truly important issues. The society on display in this poem is one that fails to
distinguish between things that matter and things that do not. The poem
mocks the men it portrays by showing them as unworthy of a form that
suited a more heroic culture. Thus the mock epic resembles the epic in that
its central concerns are serious and often moral, but the fact that the
approach must now be satirical rather than earnest is symptomatic of how far
the culture has fallen.
Pope’s use of the mock-epic genre is intricate and exhaustive. The Rape
of the Lock is a poem in which every element of the contemporary scene
conjures up some image from epic tradition or the classical worldview, and
the pieces are wrought together with a cleverness and expertise that makes
the poem surprising and delightful. Pope’s transformations are numerous,
striking, and loaded with moral implications. The great battles of epic
become bouts of gambling and flirtatious tiffs. The great, if capricious,
8
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
Greek and Roman gods are converted into a relatively undifferentiated army
of basically ineffectual sprites. Cosmetics, clothing, and jewellery substitute
for armour and weapons, and the rituals of religious sacrifice are
transplanted to the dressing room and the altar of love.
The verse form of The Rape of the Lock is the heroic couplet; Pope still
reigns as the uncontested master of the form. The heroic couplet consists of
rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter lines (lines of ten syllables each,
alternating stressed and unstressed syllables). Pope’s couplets do not fall into
strict iambs, however, flowering instead with a rich rhythmic variation that
keeps the highly regular meter from becoming heavy or tedious. Pope
distributes his sentences, with their resolutely parallel grammar, across the
lines and half-lines of the poem in a way that enhances the judicious quality
of his ideas. Moreover, the inherent balance of the couplet form is strikingly
well suited to a subject matter that draws on comparisons and contrasts: the
form invites configurations in which two ideas or circumstances are
balanced, measured, or compared against one another. It is thus perfect for
the evaluative, moralizing premise of the poem, particularly in the hands of
this brilliant poet.

9
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
MOST EXPECTED QUESTIONS
Q: “THE RAPE OF THE LOCK” IS A MOCK-HEROIC POEM,
ARGUE CONVINCINGLY.
Ans:
Both in matter and spirit “The Rape of the Lock” is designed as a mock-
heroic poem. The intention is to snub the artificiality and hollowness of the
age. Pope has intelligently handled the elaborated formula and elevated style
of epic poetry but has employed it to something very trivial. The petty and
ridiculous snipping of a lock of hair, which is the central incident has been
given an epic treatment. With the result, the little is made great and great
little; it helps in focusing upon the element of incongruity. The ultimate
effect is ludicrous and the poem automatically falls in the category of mock-
epics.
It is however, vital to note that “The Rape of the Lock” is a very
complex mock epic. Meaning by, the effect is not limited only to
comparison and parody; rather it has instructive purpose too. This desired
aim is achieved by exercising mock-heroic effect at three levels; action,
conventions and style.
At the surface level of the action, the mock-heroic effect is produced by
contrasting Belinda’s spending of day in trivial activities with heroic
adventures and momentous achievements of heroes and heroines of serious
epics. The primary source of irony and fun originates from this delightful
contrast of seriousness with levity.
Mockery is also produced by comparing the petty war of sexes----- of
Belinda and Lord Peter--- with the bloody and heart-rending wars of nations
and which would change the very fate of the nations. The desired aim is
achieved when the reader visualizes the war of sexes going hand in hand with
the war of nations.
Similarly at the social level, the action of the poem mirrors the moral
condition of the people of Pope’s age. The world of coaches, snuffboxes, lap
dogs and ogling is obviously opposed to the elevated world of Homer, Virgil
and Milton. The mock-heroic effect is produced through the juxtaposition of
gigantic with diminutive, the heroic with the non-heroic.
“The Rape of the Lock” is, therefore, much more than the mere parody
of serious epic. That “The Rape of the Lock” is more than a comic-epic is
also clear from the fact that primarily the poem is designed to remove the air
of bitterness by bringing a rapprochement between the two families and
secondarily, it aims at moral reformation.
10
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
The moral of the poem is to instruct the reader in general and Belinda in
particular for the maintenance of good sense, good humour and good nature
enlists “The Rape of the Lock” with “Odyssey”, “Aenied” and “The Fairy
Queen”. Thus though existing at different levels, the mock and heroic epics
profess the same moral that is serious.
Nevertheless, the major source of mock-heroic effect is extracted by
making parodies of epic-conventions. For example, a genuine epic like
Milton’s “Paradise Lost” revolves around a very serious theme. But the
theme of “The Rape of the Lock” is not only funny but trivial too.
“What dire offence from amorous causes springs?
What mighty contest rise from trivial things”?
Accordingly, the action of the poem automatically becomes a parody of
serious action of pure epic. The action deals with the snipping of a lock from
a lady’s head and the resultant war of sexes over this “rape”.
Almost all the epic writers start their poems with the invocation to
muses, gods, goddess and God. In “The Faerie Queen,” for example,
Spenser invokes the help of Urania, the goddess of poetry. In compatible to
the trivial theme and action of “The Rape of the Lock” Pope invokes a
fashionable vain-belle--- Belinda- for help.
The use of the supernatural machinery is another tradition and
distinctive feature of epic poetry which has been deftly parodied by Pope. In
Classical and Renaissance epics, the role of gods and goddess was always
decisive but in the “The Rape of the Lock” this function is performed by tiny
spirits, Sylphs, Nymphs, Gnomes and Salamanders. It is in line with the
trivial subject and foppish characters of the poem. It helps the poet in
showing up the follies and vanities of fashionable ladies of the time.
Likewise, Umbrial’s journey into “the cave of spleen” is intentionally
designed to make fun of the visits of epic heroes to the underworld.
The gargantuan weapons used in the war of sexes do not consist of
shining swords and mighty shields, but hairpins, cosmetics and amorous
looks. Belinda defeats Baron while throwing a pinch of snuff into his nostrils
and makes him surrender at her hairpin’s point. Pope affects the same
serious atmosphere, which the reader finds in Virgil’s “Aenied”.
Similarly, Pope uses many similes like Homer and Milton. For example,
in canto ii he compares Belinda’s eyes with a radiant lightening sun. At
another place, Belinda is ironically compared with “Queen Dido” and
“Helen”. The funniest of all comparisons is the one between Belinda’s
petticoat and “Mighty shield” of epic heroes.

11
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
Lastly, Pope’s elevated style is another source of mock-heroic effect in
“The Rape of the Lock”. He was convinced that the use of eloquent
expression for low action was the consummation of the mock epic. He,
therefore, frequently makes use of a number of poetic beauties like
periphrases, alliteration, long vowel sounds and elevated poetic diction.
These dynamics of language increase the beauty, charm and mock-heroic
effect of the poem. He calls a pair of scissors as a “two edged weapon” and
the “little engine”.
Besides, Pope employs rhetorical style after the manner of serious epics.
Belinda’s dream in Canto 1 is communicated in a grand style:
“Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air”
Then the repetition of initial word of more than five times in canto ii
and the use of high sounding words, signs of exclamation and interrogation
throughout the poem further import grandeur to the style. The juxtaposition
of a cluster of antithetical and anticlimactic statements and hyperbolic
expressions is made with the same “lofty purpose”.
“Not louder shrieks to pitying Heaven are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs breath their last,
Or rich china vessel fallen from high,
In glittering dust and painted fragments lie”
It is through these stylistic parodies and representation of comic
speeches parallel to the serious speeches of genuine epics that Pope creates
mockery in the poem.
On the basis of the above analysis, it can be safely remarked that “The
Rape of the Lock” is one of the finest pieces of mockery and it is decidedly
more than a mere parody of epic tradition. It establishes Pope’s image as an
artist and a moralist of a very high order.

12
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
Q: DISCUSS POPE AS A SATIRIST.
Q: POPE IS A CONSCIOUS ARTIST OF TECHNIQUES OF
SATIRE, DISCUSS.
Q: EXAMINE POPE AS A MORALIST.
Q: DISCUSS POPE AS A SOCIAL REFORMER.
Q: “EVERY SATIRIST IS AN IDEALIST AT HEART”, HOW FAR
IT IS TRUE ABOUT POPE?
Ans:
At its first level, Pope exposes the artificial and hollow life and paints it
with humorous and delicate satire in “The Rape of The Lock”. He talks
about the ideal life of the pleasure seeking young men and women. He
introduces us with the world of frivolous-dressing, flirting, playing, visiting
theatres, writing love letters and driving in Hyde Park, and so on and so
forth. Their whole day programme seems to be nothing but a waste.
The satire in “The Rape of the Lock” is directed not against any
individual but against the follies and vanities in general of fashionable men
and women. Pope starts his poem with the object of conciliating two
quarrelling families but as the poem progresses; he forgets his original
intention and opens to attack on female follies and vanities. Belinda is not
Arabella Fermor, she is the type of the fashionable ladies of the time and in
her the follies and vanities of the whole sex are satirized. Similarly, Baron
represents not Peter alone but typifies the aristocratic gentlemen of that age.
That strange battle between the sexes shows the sort of people they were.
Just one example will aptly demonstrate the levity of these people and show
that the criticism was levelled not against any individual but against the
whole gamut of aristocratic vanguard.
In “The Rape of the Lock” Pope scoffs at the vanities, follies, frivolities,
shallowness, hypocrisy, self-embellishment, idleness and false ideas of
honour of eighteenth century men and women. Satire along with its several
shades is the major stylistic device, which the great artist has employed to
achieve the desired aim. It is meant to amuse and instruct at one and the
same time. Accordingly, Pope’s satire is least destructive. He is a satirist
with a definite moral purpose.
The very opening lines,
“What dire offence from amorous causes springs?
What mighty contests rise from trivial things”?

13
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
On the one hand, focus upon an ironic contrast, while on the other hand,
and set the tone of the poem. Pope implies that the love affairs were the root
causes of mighty contests which were no other than the snipping of a lock of
hair from some lady’s head. This satirical observation gives us a reflection of
the pettiness of eighteenth century fashionable men and women. This example
instantly reminds the reader that the satire in “The Rape of the Lock” is
directed not against one particular individual, but against the eighteenth
century upper strata of society in general.
Pope piles upon humorous details of the daily funny routine of the
people of his lifetime. The luxuriously decorated bedrooms were so costly
curtained that even the mighty rays of the sun become timorous. The
common waking hour, which was 12 at noon, was made possible only by the
delicate patting and licking of the lapdogs. Only then, those eyes were
opened that would eclipse the day, so these are the favourite onslaughts of
pope.
Pope’s pointed, critical and entertaining survey is manifestly evident in
his description of the toilet of Belinda, strange altar raised by proud Baron,
nice conduct of Sir Plume and his clouded cane; besides, flirtatious
behaviour of men and women at the River Thames and Hampton Court,
strange journey of Umbriel in the cave of spleen and the mock-heroic war of
sexes. Belinda’s long and laborious toilet obviously demonstrates her pride
and vanity, which are certainly unfortunate sins. Pope brings out forcefully
the obdurate female pride as well as vanity of his age through his portrait of
Belinda and her conduct.
Pope unmasks the prevailing moral bankruptcy and artificiality through
the use of ironic-comparison. In this case, the most interesting occasion
occurs at Belinda’s dressing table. The ceremony of self-embellishment is
described in a way that parodies a religious ritual. The description of the
belle performing the sacred rite of pride is truly witty and lively. The details
of the objects of toilet are drawn with the rare sense of the comic. The
comparison of Belinda with a goddess underlines the hollowness of the age.
Puffs, powders and love letters all these weapons are placed side by side
with Bibles to produce anticlimactic effect. The intention is decidedly to hurl
a pungent satire at the vanities and false moral standards of eighteenth
century women. Pope is both a satirist and a moralist.
The reversal of values and standards seems almost complete as petty
affairs were given greater importance than the solemn and moral ones. The
death of a lapdog or the breaking of a fragile china jar is as serious a matter
as the death of a husband. The ethical judgments of eighteenth century
14
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
English society were obviously in sad disarray and it was this rotten state,
which was sarcastically castigated by Pope in “The Rape of the Lock”.
The leading negative trends and attitudes of eighteenth century men and
women are the subject matter of Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”. These
trends are exposed in a satirical way. Satire is the major stylistic device,
which Pope has employed to create the desired effects. It is a common
knowledge that the true end of satire is the amendment of vice by correction.
Accordingly, Pope’s satire presents a nice criticism of life and exposure of
human weakness, follies, absurdities and shortcomings. He uses humour,
wit, anti-climax, anti-thesis, metamorphosis, hyperbole, sarcasm, lampoon,
mockery, ridicule, innuendo and irony with great skill to achieve his goal,
i.e. his moral end. His moral purpose gives him a standard or ideal with
which he ridicules at the prevailing deviations of society. In resultant, the
distinguishing aspect of Pope’s satire is that it operates at three levels,
exposure, laughter and instruction.
The great satirist also employs various other techniques to draw his
moral implications. Pope effectively handles metamorphosis. The finest
example is Pope’s description of the “cave of spleen”. The goddess of
Spleen who is a representative figure of eighteenth century women is lying
on her pensive bed, always sighing for nothing in the company of Megrim,
affectation and pain. The climax of this satirical description approaches
when Pope remarks.
“Here living tea-pots stand, one arm held out,
One bent, the handle this, and that the spout!
A Pippin there, like Homer’s Tripod walks,
Here sighs a jar and there a Goose-pie talks”
Through such subtle strokes Pope points out the illusions from which
the melancholic people of his age suffered.
The use of hyperbolic expressions further strengthen Pope’s claim as a
first rate satirist and his mock epic as a nice piece of social criticism. This
shade of satire is highlighted in an artistic manner in the portrait of Belinda’s
character. She is called as the “fairest of mortals” “goddess” and the “rival
of the beams of the sun”. The only intention is to mock at the gentle belle.
The crowning achievements of Pope’s satire are best expressed in his
Epigrammatic style. It is at its best in the juxtaposition of a cluster of
antithetical and anticlimactic statements.
“Not louder shrieks to pitying Heaven are cast,
When husbands or when lapdogs breath their last,
Or when rich china vessels fallen from high,
15
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
In glittering dust and painted fragments lie!”
The resultant import is the element of incongruity, which on the one
hand enables Pope to comment upon mischievous activities of the giddy
circle, while to provide sufficient amount of entertainment to the reader on
the other hand. By now it becomes clear that “The Rape of the Lock” is a
bitter and realistic satire on eighteenth century aristocratic circle. But Pope’s
purpose is not confined to mere condemnation and entertainment. He was a
true ‘humanist’ who always aimed at moral reformation. In resultant, he has
a noble purpose behind each of his writings of which “The Rape of the
Lock” is an outstanding example.
His noble cause is no other than to establish the superiority of saner
values. There is no doubt that he has exposed the moral degeneration in a
caustic manner but the satire is least destructive or negative. At its best, it
serves as a strong fortress for the defence of moral values. Clarrisa’s speech in
which she stresses the need of maintaining good humour, good sense and
good nature, validates the above observation. Thus, Pope’s satire in “The
Rape of the Lock” operates at three levels; exposure, Entertainment,
instructions. He is a superb artist and a great moralist who shares with other
artists the milk of human kindness.
Q: “THE RAPE OF THE LOCK” IS A MIRROR TO SOCIAL LIFE
OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND, ELABORATE.
Q: DISCUSS POPE’S REALISM.
Q: DISCUSS “THE RAPE OF THE LOCK” AS A SOCIAL
CRITICISM.
Ans:
“The Rape of the Lock” is an excellent piece of social criticism in
which Pope has depicted a faithful picture of the upper strata of eighteenth
century English society. The picture is not confined to mere realism of
presentation; it also contains realism of assessment.
The multi-shaded life of the upper class with all its eccentric vanities
and bogus purities is conveyed through such lines as:
“A well-bred lord to assault a gentle belle,”
“Could make a gentle belle reject a lord,”
And,
“In soft bosoms dwell such mighty rages”.
These paradoxical utterances are very appropriate and expose the immoral
social standards and tastes of the age. The so-called gentlemen of the time had
neither higher aims nor lofty ideals.
16
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
The aimlessness of their life is crystal clear from their zealous
involvement in grand deeds, like snipping of a lock of hair. Similarly, the
rejection of a beau and the presence of surging and gushing rage in ‘soft
bosoms’ were simply a pre-planned posture on the part of ladies to air their
chastity and to harbour their inner most desire to marry a well-bred lord.
The popular details of the daily routine of the ‘gentle’ men and women
are served in very entertaining way. The rising from the luxurious beds at 12
O’ clock in the noon and it was made possible by the licking of the lap dogs.
The strayed life of the women is clear from their toilet ceremony.
Belinda’s preparation at the dressing table is not only ironic and amusing but
meaningful too. The ‘heavenly image’ appears before the mirror and the
‘sacred’ rites of self-embellishment are performed with greatest deftness.
The poor priestess ‘unmasks’ carefully many caskets, bottles of different
gems, colours and performs to decorate the “goddess”. Here Pope castigates
the moral alienation through a piercing flash of an anticlimactic statement.
He remarks that puffs, powders and love letters are placed side by side with
the Bible. This is decidedly a representative description of the eighteenth
century women, their obsession and preoccupations.
Pope’s use of supernatural machinery is of great dramatic importance. It
is through the agency of tiny spirits the “varying vanities” of the mind and
soul of eighteenth century women are laid bare. Pope does not simply
satirize the follies, frivolities of living women but also seems to be branding
the very soul of women with the stigma of inalienable vanities. He
frequently writes in this tongue-in-cheek manner.
The character of Lord Petre mirrors the spiritual estrangement of
eighteenth century men. His cunning stratagems aim at exposing the
hollowness of beaux. His unshaken resolve and hasty moves are not exerted to
the fulfilment of any noble desire.
For example, Pope points out the satirical picture of the altar of love.
The Baron after entreating the heaven and worshiping the god of love raises
an altar, which consists of several tokens of love like French Romances,
gloves and love letters. He lights the fire and sighs into it in order to flame it.
It is quite surprising that he takes all the pains just to get a petty lock. Pope
by making fun of the silliness, childishness and pettiness of the character of
eighteenth century English men faithfully focuses upon the temper of the
age.
The opening of the Canto III sums up the entire picture. A visit to
Hampton Court was one of the most favourite leisure time activities of the
rich classes. The court is the centre of all sorts of serious and non-serious
17
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
gossips. Pope has given a realistic picture of the minds and thinking levels of
the court-goers in “The Rape of The Lock”. The people are found not only
chatting about political affairs but also scandalizing the sweet charmers of
the “giddy circle”. Some of the fashions and habits of people like dancing,
fanning and ogling are vividly and ironically pictured to import the actual
state of affairs. Pope has also satirized the judges and members of jury who
hurriedly announce the decisions and sign the sentence to fill their bellies.
“The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that Jurymen may dine”.
The above couplet fairly communicates the shortsightedness and
prostitution of profession of various classes of Pope’s lifetime.
Similar sort of hypocrisy of life is snubbed through the game of
“Omber” which is symbolic of the war of sexes. Afterwards, Belinda’s loss
of hair and her lamentation and Pope’s comparing of her mourning to that of
Queen Dido’s has ironic and realistic overtones.
The shallowness, which was the major personality trait of eighteenth
century women, is brought into light through the juxtaposition of contrasting
anticlimactic statements. The breakage of a China jar or the death of
favourite lap dog was as serious a matter for the society belles as the death
of husband.
The pretension and affected manners of the fair sex are also brought into
focus through the description of the Cave of Spleen. Umbrial’s significant
journey into the cave of Spleen is of great thematic importance. In the Cave
of Spleen, the dubious facets of women’s character are personified through
different bad spirits and shapes, ill-nature, Affectation, Pain, Megrim,
Teapots etc. this is how the wide gulf between the appearance and the reality
and moral bankruptcy of fair sex is presented by Pope.
Such was the kind of ‘sophisticated’ life, which was led by the
fashionable people of Pope’s lifetime. The great humanist has undoubtedly
depicted the picture in a realistic and a pungently satirical way. The ultimate
aim of which is moral instruction and social reformation.

18
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
Q: TREATMENT OF WOMEN, IN “THE RAPE OF THE LOCK” IS
NOT BASED UPON BIASED APPROACH, ELABORATE.
Q: BELINDA REPRESENTS WOMEN IN GENERAL AND ALSO
PRESENTS SOME PARTICULAR IDIOSYNCRASIES,
DISCUSS.
Ans:
Pope has given Belinda a very complex treatment. She is presented in
different roles and under various shades, some satirical while other ironical
but all entertaining. The leading ones are coquettes, gentle belle, society girl,
sweet charmer, rival of the beams of the sun and murderer of the millions.
This critical delineation of Belinda’s character in “The Rape of the Lock”
has provoked much controversy since the publication of the poem. One
school of critics regards the treatment as fair while the other as unfair.
However, the reality lies in between these two extremes in order to reach a
definite conclusion and to import a clear picture of “Gentle belle” an
analysis of the above-mentioned roles is of foremost importance.
It becomes clear at the outset that Pope has satirically treated the
negative trends and values of Belinda’s personality and through Belinda of
the entire class of eighteenth century women. The treatment seems fair we
take Belinda as a typical representative girl of the aristocratic circle.
The social history of England confirms that the women of the eighteenth
century upper class had many flaws in their character. The amorous affairs are
the root causes of ‘dire offence’ and ‘mighty contests’ while the soft bosoms
bear mighty rage in the perverted circle. All of Belinda’s actions and activities
show that she is a confirmed coquette whose chief delight is to flirt with
gallants. Studying Belinda’s character in this light Pope seems justified in
presenting Belinda’s character in a satirical strain.
Belinda is by all means central to the action of “The Rape of The Lock”.
She is the breath of the poem. But she is exposed as a sham of purity. Her
negativism is brought into light through general and particular descriptions.
Her common waking hour is 12 at noon. The licking of the lapdog is
responsible for this awakening, which could possible eclipse the day. Her
morning dream is another means to mirror her diseased mind. She is
reluctant to wake up as she cherishes in her dream the appreciation of a
lover. It was one of her most pleasure giving activities. Aerial retires from
his job of guarding, for he sees an earthly lover lurking in her heart. Pope is
justified in mocking at women because they failed to uphold the positive
values of life.
19
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
“The varying vanities” of Belinda and her class are also aired through
the description of the supernatural machinery. Pope ironically implies that
vanity is so strong a facet of women’s personality that it continues in various
ways even after death. The souls of women are converted into spirits, which
continue their vain pursuits, appropriate to their nature when alive. Actually
they are the spirit of light-hearted flirts.
Belinda proves herself a typical society girl when she rises before the
dressing table to perform the sacred rite of self-embellishment. She takes
extraordinary pain in equipping her with the best of all cosmetics and
perfumes. Pope’s criticism of the goddess holds water as the toilet
ceremony, on the one hand, reveals the aimlessness, and idleness while, on
the other hand, exposes the flirtatious nature of the sweet charmer. The
placing of powders, puffs, and love letters with the Bible further clarifies the
picture of the moral chaos and the unchaste thinking of the fair sex.
With “purer blush” on her checks and “keener light” in her eyes, the
“heavenly image” appears on the River Thames to murder the millions of
her admirers. Her resplendent beauty is declared as ‘rivals of the beams’ of
the sun. The hyperbolic expressions are meant to expose her hollowness
because her beauty is artificial and that it does not serve a positive purpose.
She is appreciated by a number of admirers but being a representative beauty
of her class she extends her artificial smiles towards every well wisher
without ever a tinge of sincerity.
“Favours to none, to all she smiles extends,
Oft she rejects, but never once offends,
Bright as the sun her eyes the gazers strike,
And like the sun, they shine an all alike”.
The bogus morality and moral disarray of the ladies are decidedly
whipped in a just and gently sarcastic way. Belinda is presented as an
injured innocent after her rape by the undisciplined ravisher, Lord Peter.
However, her innocence is brought into light through the juxtaposition of
antithetical and anticlimactic statement. She laments in such a dreadful way
that her injury seems beyond all repair. She would not cry so loudly even
when her beautiful china jar would crack into thousand pieces or her lapdog
or her husband would take their last breath. The injured innocent raises hue
and cry because she is publicly disgraced. Had the mighty foe taken this and
many more liberties but in privacy. The sweet charmer would have enjoyed
the ‘fancy show’. Here Pope’s treatment of women gets awfully fair for
whom the loss of a lock of hair is as serious a matter as a loss of virginity.
The moral bankruptcy of the women is also voiced through the description
20
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)
of Hampton court. The life of girls like Belinda is so purposeless that they
would waste most of their time in chatting, singing, laughing and ogling. But
the exposure of the fairest of all finds its fullest expression in the description
of the cave of spleen. Pain, Megrim, Ill nature and Affectation are the
various facts of Belinda’s personality. A typical eighteenth century girl
would affect illness with a preplanned intention of showing her new gown
and charming postures on the one hand while dream of most fanciful
illusions on the other hand.
“Here living teapots stand, one arm held out,
One bent, the handle this, and that the spout,
A pipkin there, like Homer’s tripod walks,
Here sighs a jar and there a Goose-pie talks”.
The above analysis of Belinda’s character sketch shows that Pope
criticizes the vanities and frivolities of eighteenth century women. He
censures Belinda’s false glamour and inversion of values. Her participation
in the rituals of the hollow society makes her as hollow as is the society. In
Belinda’s scheme of things it is the outward glitter and reputation, not
virtues and genuine honours that matter. There is, therefore much, which
deserves criticism and Pope avails himself every chance of playing with
Belinda and her “giddy circle”.
However, Pope’s treatment seems unfair when the reader sees Belinda’s
conduct in the context of courtship game in which she must preserve her
honour and chastity while pursuing her objective of looking for a suitable
husband. The only way to protect one’s virginity in that diseased atmosphere
was to observe an antic disposition and flirtatious and vain behaviour was
the direct outcome of that disposition. Belinda’s fault is the fault of the
society. There is thus something genuinely loveable about her.
Pope’s sympathies are listed on Belinda’s side to the extent of her light
in a male dominating society in which a women ‘who scorned man must die
a maid’ but if she made her accessible she might become a degraded toast.
Admittedly, Pope has given Belinda a complex treatment and this
complexity is due to Pope’s own ambivalent attitude towards her. But
whether Pope’s treatment is fair or unfair the reader must keep in his mind
that Pope was a great humanist, whose main aim is to bring moral order in a
morally chaotic world. To him, ‘end justifies the means’. His ends are moral;
therefore his means do not hurt much the emotional responses of the reader.

21
Qaisar Iqbal Janjua, Contact: (92) 300 8494678
This can be obtained from the market Printed by JBD Press Lahore, the title is
(M A English Literature)