Alexander Pope

The Rape of the Lock: Canto 1 by Alexander Pope

‘The Rape of the Lock’ is an epic poem that perfectly brings out the picture of 18th-century contemporary society.

Canto 1 is a segment of the poem ‘The Rape of the Lock.’ The poem has five parts, known as ‘canto’. Pope banters the newly rich middle class who tried to fake the lifestyle of the aristocracy. The first edition was published in 1712 with two cantos, and in 1714, the revised version with five cantos was published. The title word of the poem represents Belinda’s locks, something so lucrative as to bring destruction to ‘Mankind’, i.e, the Male folk. Pope wrote, “A key to the Lock” as a message not to take ‘The Rape of the Lock‘ seriously. As for the structure, the poem is written in heroic couplets, using iambic pentameter mostly.

The Rape of the Lock: Canto 1 
Alexander Pope

     Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
     Sedjuvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis.
     (Martial, Epigrams 12.84)

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing—This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,
If she inspire, and he approve my lays.

       Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred lord t' assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

       Sol thro' white curtains shot a tim'rous ray,
And op'd those eyes that must eclipse the day;
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake,
And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground,
And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound.
Belinda still her downy pillow press'd,
Her guardian sylph prolong'd the balmy rest:
'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed
The morning dream that hover'd o'er her head;
A youth more glitt'ring than a birthnight beau,
(That ev'n in slumber caus'd her cheek to glow)
Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay,
And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say.

       "Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air!
If e'er one vision touch'd thy infant thought,
Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught,
Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen,
The silver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins visited by angel pow'rs,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs,
Hear and believe! thy own importance know,
Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.
Some secret truths from learned pride conceal'd,
To maids alone and children are reveal'd:
What tho' no credit doubting wits may give?
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
Know then, unnumber'd spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky;
These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
Hang o'er the box, and hover round the Ring.
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
And view with scorn two pages and a chair.
As now your own, our beings were of old,
And once inclos'd in woman's beauteous mould;
Thence, by a soft transition, we repair
From earthly vehicles to these of air.
Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead;
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards.
Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
And love of ombre, after death survive.
For when the fair in all their pride expire,
To their first elements their souls retire:
The sprites of fiery termagants in flame
Mount up, and take a Salamander's name.
Soft yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip with Nymphs, their elemental tea.
The graver prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam.
The light coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air.

       Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste
Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embrac'd:
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.
What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,
When music softens, and when dancing fires?
'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honour is the word with men below.

       Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,
For life predestin'd to the gnomes' embrace.
These swell their prospects and exalt their pride,
When offers are disdain'd, and love denied:
Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,
While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,
And garters, stars, and coronets appear,
And in soft sounds 'Your Grace' salutes their ear.
'Tis these that early taint the female soul,
Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll,
Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a beau.

       Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way,
Thro' all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinence expel by new.
What tender maid but must a victim fall
To one man's treat, but for another's ball?
When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand?
With varying vanities, from ev'ry part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart;
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive,
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
This erring mortals levity may call,
Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.

       Of these am I, who thy protection claim,
A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.
Late, as I rang'd the crystal wilds of air,
In the clear mirror of thy ruling star
I saw, alas! some dread event impend,
Ere to the main this morning sun descend,
But Heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where:
Warn'd by the Sylph, oh pious maid, beware!
This to disclose is all thy guardian can.
Beware of all, but most beware of man!"

       He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,
Leap'd up, and wak'd his mistress with his tongue.
'Twas then, Belinda, if report say true,
Thy eyes first open'd on a billet-doux;
Wounds, charms, and ardors were no sooner read,
But all the vision vanish'd from thy head.

       And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid.
First, rob'd in white, the nymph intent adores
With head uncover'd, the cosmetic pow'rs.
A heav'nly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;
Th' inferior priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling, begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various off'rings of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glitt'ring spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The tortoise here and elephant unite,
Transform'd to combs, the speckled and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux.
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling care;
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;
And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.
The Rape of the Lock: Canto 1 by Alexander Pope


Historical Context

Alexander Pope can be considered as one of the major sources of significant political, social, and economic changes. The Bloodless Glorious Revolution of 1688 turned down the Catholic era with Britain’s last Catholic monarch James II and was replaced by his protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange. Pope mocks the anti-Catholic practices by the protestant believers all over in the poem ‘The Rape of the Lock.’ The 18th century brought industrialization and the spread of British colonial power across the world also affects the poem. Another saying is that A. Pope was narrated by his friend John Caryll whom he mentioned in canto I how Lord Petre, Arabella Fermor’s suitor had snipped off one of her hair locks. Pope also wrote a dedicatory letter to Ms Arabella Fermor saying that:

It will be vain to deny that I have some Regard for this piece since I Dedicate it to you. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young Ladies, who have good Sense and good Humour enough, to laugh not only at their Sex’s little unguarded Follies but at their own. But as it was communicated with the Air of a secret, it soon found its Way into the World…

He mocks Arabella Fermor that:

the ancient Poets are in one respect like many modern Ladies: Let an Action be never so trivial in it self, they always make it appear of the utmost importance.

This totally justifies the fact that the poem is a true mock-epic not only because it uses the greatness of an epic to mock the idiosyncrasy and insignificance of contemporary society, but also exaggerates the artificial glitters as domestic door talks, the new hub of life.

Summary

As the curtain rises, we can see Pope invoking the encouragement of Muse in an epic style. He sings his concern about the misunderstanding and petty quarrels created from trifling love affairs. Pope tells the Muse that he wants to suggest the poem to his friend Caryl who first told him the story behind the poem and he is sure that this poem will bring him fame if Caryl approves it. The poet wonders what can be the reason behind the decision of a well-bred Lord to offend a high-born Lady, and the motive of the rejection of the Lord by the blue-blooded lady. It is midday. The sun brings about the morning routines of daily households.

Lapdogs shake themselves awake but Belinda is still in bed, dreaming the dream, initiated by the ‘guardian sylph’, ‘Ariel’. The dream was about a young handsome man, dressed more brilliantly than a suitor will dress in his best clothes to join a beautiful evening ball dance organized for the birthday of a king or queen, telling her that she must be protected by the ‘unnumber’d Spirits’ who once lived on earth as human beings (Female). Those little airy beings are assigned to protect the chastity of a fair lady One of the groups of these spirits is the Sylphs, Belinda’s personal guardian, they’re like lovers, devoted to any women who rejected mankind. They make sure that life stays glorious and enlightened for the fair ladies by maintaining the “toyshop of the heart.” On the other hand, ladies with excess pride fall under the influence of gnomes.

They mislead the young ladies in their youth by teaching them how to chase men or to catch their attention with their captivating faces. Ariel, the chief of the sylphs, told her that something may go wrong that day and warned her to ‘Beware of Man’. Just then Belinda wakes up from her sleep by her favorite lapdog Shock. As soon as she receives a love letter she totally forgets about the dream. She then proceeds to get ready with the help of her guardian sylph and the maidservant Betty. Betty is seen as a pagan ‘priestess’, where Belinda is the ‘goddess’ and the table is the ‘altar’ for these ‘sacred rites of pride.’

Themes

Pope’s poetry, especially The Rape of the Lock‘ holds up a faithful mirror to the 18th century English ‘beau monde’.

It was Queen Anne’s regime that faced newborn urban industrialization and huge advances of science, technology, and merchant-economy created a new class: the ‘noveau riche’ middle class, who imitated the lifestyle of the aristocracy. ‘The Rape of the Lock‘ depicts the eighteenth-century practices and pastimes, the false standards of living in a very big panorama. The card games, parties, lap-dogs, pleasure-boating, snuff-taking, scandal-mongering, love-letter writing and collecting, idle gossip- everything, presented in the poem, are culled from the pages of the contemporary history.

Though the male folk was no less glued to this external resplendence, it was the fair sex who really stole the show. In their obsession with vagant dress, jewelry, and toiletry, in their desperate attempt in aping, and in surpassing one another’s fashion display, in their feigned nonchalance, in their preoccupation with worthless Bric-à-Brac, in their artificial gentleness veiling their aggressive sensuality and finally, in their inherent frivolity- the women of their time surpassed all feminine vanity of the preceding ages. Pope has left no dart in his stock unused, to banter this innately empty embellished society, especially its female folk.

Detailed Analysis

Line 1-31

What dire offence from am’rous causes springs,

What mighty contests rise from trivial things,

I sing—This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:

This, ev’n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:

Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,

If she inspire, and he approve my lays.

    Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel

A well-bred lord t’ assault a gentle belle?

O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor’d,

Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?

In tasks so bold, can little men engage,

And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

  Sol thro’ white curtains shot a tim’rous ray,

And op’d those eyes that must eclipse the day;

Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake,

And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake:

Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock’d the ground,

And the press’d watch return’d a silver sound.

Belinda still her downy pillow press’d,

Her guardian sylph prolong’d the balmy rest:

‘Twas he had summon’d to her silent bed

The morning dream that hover’d o’er her head;

A youth more glitt’ring than a birthnight beau,

(That ev’n in slumber caus’d her cheek to glow)

Seem’d to her ear his winning lips to lay,

And thus in whispers said, or seem’d to say.

    “Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish’d care

Of thousand bright inhabitants of air!

If e’er one vision touch’d thy infant thought,

Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught,

Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen,

The poet, Alexander Pope cries about the terrible results of misunderstanding in love affairs and the impactful quarrels and invokes the Muse, the goddess of art and poetry, to shower blessings on his verse. He requests the goddess to make both Caryl and Belinda notice the poem, because, though the theme is trivial, it will surely bring fame. Pope wonders what might be the reason for the well-bred suitor to offend a lady and also a lady to reject a lord.

The sun rises higher and the rays fall into Belinda’s room through white curtains and opened her eyes which dazzled more than the bright sun. It’s midday and the lapdogs wake up and shake their bodies breaking her sleep. Belinda rings her handbell trice and then makes a sound on the floor with her slipper, but no one replied, so she pressed her soft pillow under her head and fell asleep again starts dreaming about a handsome young man dressed in a better way than a suitor who is going to attend a beautiful evening ball dance on a birthday of a king or queen.

The young was too attractive to make Belinda blush even in her dreams. The man in the dream slowly lays his lips on her ear and whispers that a fair lady like Belinda should be protected by the airy elves. He tells Belinda that if she had heard in her bosom from nurses or priests about angels and fairies that lived in the air, seen in shady places on moon-lit nights.

Line 32-64

The silver token, and the circled green,

Or virgins visited by angel pow’rs,

With golden crowns and wreaths of heav’nly flow’rs,

Hear and believe! thy own importance know,

Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.

Some secret truths from learned pride conceal’d,

To maids alone and children are reveal’d:

What tho’ no credit doubting wits may give?

The fair and innocent shall still believe.

Know then, unnumber’d spirits round thee fly,

The light militia of the lower sky;

These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,

Hang o’er the box, and hover round the Ring.

Think what an equipage thou hast in air,

And view with scorn two pages and a chair.

As now your own, our beings were of old,

And once inclos’d in woman’s beauteous mould;

Thence, by a soft transition, we repair

From earthly vehicles to these of air.

Think not, when woman’s transient breath is fled,

That all her vanities at once are dead;

Succeeding vanities she still regards,

And tho’ she plays no more, o’erlooks the cards.

Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,

And love of ombre, after death survive.

For when the fair in all their pride expire,

To their first elements their souls retire:

The sprites of fiery termagants in flame

Mount up, and take a Salamander’s name.

Soft yielding minds to water glide away,

And sip with Nymphs, their elemental tea.

The graver prude sinks downward to a Gnome,

In search of mischief still on earth to roam.

He is talking about the fairies who put silver pennies into the slippers of the maids at night or dance on the green grass. If Belinda ever believed in the tales of angels who visit virtuous damsels with golden crowns and garlands of flowers, then she should know her importance and never bow down her thoughts by what is visible on earth.

There are some unrevealed talks which were hidden from grown-up men and told to children and maidens, that numerous spirits which fly around invisibly when one is in the box of theatre or is driving in the Hyde Park in London or enjoys a race are the light militia of the lower sky. In past, the fairies were enclosed in bodies of beautiful women, passed from physical bodies by a big change into airy beings.

It’s a misconception that all the vanities go away when a woman dies, she takes an interest in the vanities of the next generation. The delight in playing ombre, or cards doesn’t fade away after death. When a proud woman dies, she turns into the five elements of the earth. The violent women who represent fire are the salamanders. The women with soft hearts are nymphs and the serious-minded women are gnomes, spirits of the earth who always roam the earth to search for mischief.

Lines 65-105

The light coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,

And sport and flutter in the fields of air.

    Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste

Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embrac’d:

For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease

Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.

What guards the purity of melting maids,

In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,

Safe from the treach’rous friend, the daring spark,

The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,

When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,

When music softens, and when dancing fires?

‘Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,

Though honour is the word with men below.

    Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,

For life predestin’d to the gnomes’ embrace.

These swell their prospects and exalt their pride,

When offers are disdain’d, and love denied:

Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,

While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,

And garters, stars, and coronets appear,

And in soft sounds ‘Your Grace’ salutes their ear.

‘Tis these that early taint the female soul,

Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll,

Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know,

And little hearts to flutter at a beau.

    Oft, when the world imagine women stray,

The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way,

Thro’ all the giddy circle they pursue,

And old impertinence expel by new.

What tender maid but must a victim fall

To one man’s treat, but for another’s ball?

When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,

If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand?

With varying vanities, from ev’ry part,

They shift the moving toyshop of their heart;

Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive,

Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.

This erring mortals levity may call,

Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.

    Of these am I, who thy protection claim

These light-hearted flirts go up to a higher region of air after the death, in the name and forms of sylphs and play in the air. She (Belinda) should know that any lady who rejects all love offers from men is protected by the sylphs. They are beyond the rules of charging over human bodies and mold in any shape or sex they like. They protect the weak ladies at country balls and masked dances from male friends who desperately seduces the ladies, from young lovers, from the amorous gazes, from the tempting favorable opportunities that excite the ladies to have male companies.

The wise beings know that the sylphs take care of the ladies’ safety, though men take this safety to their own sense of self-respect. Some girls are very proud of their beauty and destined to live under the influence of gnomes all their life. The gnomes pump their pride and vain beauties. Their head is filled with thoughts of lords, who will court them with all their wealth, and address them ‘Your Grace’ in soft voices, how to maintain a captive modest face during the period and to be excited at the thought of young lovers.

Often the sylphs guide the women through puzzling problems of fashionable life and give them company among the bucket of pleasures that turns their heads and keep them straight with new foolery. No woman will give up on her chastity, being just an entertainment for the lover, if it is fired up in a ball dance party arranged by a rival lover. No woman can resist Florio’s charm if Damon isn’t there to squeeze her warm hands and attract her to himself. These young maids, with their various vanities, shift their eyes from one gallant to another just like a toy shop always on move. There’s always a wave of dodging one another by ‘wigs with wigs’, or the strive of sword -knots. The continuous interchange of one option to the better one is the tricks of the sylphs to protect the ladies. And in Belinda’s case, the sylph is Ariel.

Line 106-148

A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.

Late, as I rang’d the crystal wilds of air,

In the clear mirror of thy ruling star

I saw, alas! some dread event impend,

Ere to the main this morning sun descend,

But Heav’n reveals not what, or how, or where:

Warn’d by the Sylph, oh pious maid, beware!

This to disclose is all thy guardian can.

Beware of all, but most beware of man!”

    He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,

Leap’d up, and wak’d his mistress with his tongue.

‘Twas then, Belinda, if report say true,

Thy eyes first open’d on a billet-doux;

Wounds, charms, and ardors were no sooner read,

But all the vision vanish’d from thy head.

    And now, unveil’d, the toilet stands display’d,

Each silver vase in mystic order laid.

First, rob’d in white, the nymph intent adores

With head uncover’d, the cosmetic pow’rs.

A heav’nly image in the glass appears,

To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;

Th’ inferior priestess, at her altar’s side,

Trembling, begins the sacred rites of pride.

Unnumber’d treasures ope at once, and here

The various off’rings of the world appear;

From each she nicely culls with curious toil,

And decks the goddess with the glitt’ring spoil.

This casket India’s glowing gems unlocks,

And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.

The tortoise here and elephant unite,

Transform’d to combs, the speckled and the white.

Here files of pins extend their shining rows,

Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux.

Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;

The fair each moment rises in her charms,

Repairs her smiles, awakens ev’ry grace,

And calls forth all the wonders of her face;

Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,

And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.

The busy Sylphs surround their darling care;

These set the head, and those divide the hair,

Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown;

And Betty’s prais’d for labours not her own.

The sylph, Ariel, tells Belinda that as the sylphs dwell in the high reign of air, he can see clearly that something wrong is going to happen in her life before the sunset. He doesn’t know what exactly will happen, how or where it will happen. He warns Belinda to put on her guard every time and asks to stay away from the Male sex. After his speech, Belinda suddenly wakes up by her dog and sees a love letter containing the lover’s confession that how he has been captivated by the spell of her beauty and forgets about the dream. Then the readers are led directly to her toilet.

The way it’s unveiled resembles the rising of the curtain in a theatre. The silver pots were arranged in a manner of expertise. Belinda wears a white dress without a headdress, worships the deities that roam in the toilet. She adorns herself in the mirror by bending her body and raising her eyes. Her servant Betty who was called the inferior priestess stands beside her to help her in doing makeup, trembling in fear if something goes wrong in the ritual.

The caskets are opened one by one which contains different makeups collected from all over the land. Belinda, as an expert puts all the makeup on her face with great care. One casket contains gems from India, there other have perfumes from Arabia and another contains comb made of tortoise-shells and milky white combs are made of ivory. One of the caskets contains shinning pins, puffs, powders, patches, bible, and love letters. Belinda equips herself just like a warrior equips himself before the war.

She starts to look heavenly after her toilet ritual. Her smile becomes more attractive, charms more captivating. The blushes on her chicks oozed out all the wonders of her face and her eyelashes were the flash with the brightness of the lightning. The attending sylphs are busy correcting her hair, sleeves, braid, and gown.  Though the sylphs contributed to her rituals, Betty takes all the credit away.

Literary Devices

  • Mock-Heroic elements: The poem starts with mock-heroic elements. The engagement of inconstant deities in the lives of human beings is an epic element. The way of presenting the central problem of the poem is a mock-heroic element. The emotions and passions in the poem, the satiric tone with which Pope criticizes the 18 th century society is an example of a mock-heroic element. The usage of supernatural elements can be seen in the mock-heroic aspect.
  • Satire:  Pope’s satire is very much lively and jovial. The device he uses to arouse comic laughter and to rectify the follies of the age was the unexpected juxtaposition of the serious and the petty. The readers recognized that the society took its foppery solemnly and its religion frivolously. 
  • Images and their significances: Pope compares Belinda’s glamour with the sun. There are images of silver and gold. Belinda’s lock symbolizes the importance given to a woman’s beauty in society. The card symbolizes the trivial nature of life at court. The Bodkin symbolizes the swords and spears of a warrior. ‘Atar’, ‘The Sacred Rites of Pride’ are instances of religious imagery.
  • The main device is Hyperbole,  Pope uses this device to describe Belinda, her activities and to exaggerate the common places. In lines 13 and 14 readers can see hyperbole used to describe Belinda’s beauty.

 There are some other rhetorics used in the poem such as:

  • Personification: is used to personify any inanimate thing 
  • Anaphora: Lines 1 and 2  starts with the word ‘what’, line number 75 and 76 starts with ‘when’
  • Alliteration:  In line number 5,26.37,101-102, there are repeating sounds like /s/, /w/ etc.
  • Metaphor: In line 100, the ‘toyshop’ is compared with women’s whims.
  • Historical References: In lines number 3 and 27 there are references to Caryl, Ombre.


FAQs

What is the main idea of ‘The Rape of the Lock?’

Though the poemThe Rape of the Lock is about Baron’s wicked way of getting the object (love) i.e Belinda, by snipping off her gorgeous lock, the main idea of the poem is to present a clear image of the fake society of 18th century and to criticize the lifestyle, mentality of the people of that period. Bantering the artificiality, that became the center of attraction is the thing the poem is based on.

Why does the Baron cut Belinda’s hair?

Belinda was a beautiful woman, too bright and joyous, and was famous for the two gorgeous curls that perfectly framed her fair face. Baron, the representative of the male chauvinist admired her beauty want to possess it in any way. He cuts Belinda’s locks with the help of Clarissa just to portray that he owns her. It’s just an 18th century way to follow the motto ‘be the man’.

What do you think rape means in Pope’s ‘The Rape of the Lock?’

‘Rape’, in its bookish meaning is a heinous crime of violating a person sexually against their say, mostly using force. The title word of the poem, ‘The Rape of the Lock‘ is a picture-word showing Baron snipping off Belinda’s locks. The word is used in a bit comical way to protest against the society that objectifies women.

Why is ‘The Rape of the Lock a mock-epic?

The poem The Rape of the Lock is an epic poem because of its length. The poem is divided into 5 cantos ( 1-5). Through this poem, Pope tears off the sophisticated mask of the 18th century folk denuding their ugly faces by presenting serious topics through giggles. So the poem is a perfect mock-epic to utter.

What does Pope declare to be the subject of The Rape of the Lock?’

Pope states boldly that the subject of the poem is how a dreadful situation arises from a love affair and ends with a shocking note and how it marches the fire between people that destroyed themselves. He also tries to show the duplicity of people, the wicked nature of them that comes out very often. He tries to make the readers laugh at their own follies.

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Meghamitra Goswami Poetry Expert
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Meghamitra graduated with a degree in English Literature and has pursued a Masters degree to further her education. She has her own blog on literature and loves to analyze poetry on Poem Analysis.
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