Moral Tension and Society – The Rape of The Lock

The Anniversaries by John Donne Fictionistic

In this article, we are going to answer a major question that in The Rape of the Lock, Pope has presented an imaginative critique of the fashionable world of his time. What moral tension lies under the glittering surface of society?

Mirror of Society

The Rape of the Lock is basically a mirror to the eighteenth-century aristocratic life of London. Pope depicts a full picture of his age and displays his unsurpassable wit. The theme, which he selects, pertains to the rape of the lock of fashionable belle by one of her amorous lovers. This is a very trivial incident but Pope makes his poem a heroic-comical poem. Women of that age used to dress lavishly and visit clubs and coffee-houses, where the young men would assemble and flirt with them. “No writer”, says Leslie Stephen, “reflects so dearly and completely the spirit of her own day as Pope does, and it is in The Rape of the Lock that he depicts the life of the fashionable world of his age completely. “

The artificial tone of the age, the frivolous aspect of felinity is nowhere more exquisitely pictured than in this poem. It is the epic of trifling; a page tom from the petty, pleasure-seeking life of fashionable beauty.

Pope gives us an imaginative picture of the society women of his age. He tells us how the aristocratic ladies of his time used to beautify themselves and aspire for matrimonial alliances with peers and dukes and dreamt of garters: stars and coronets. Such ladies, early in their youth, used to learn to roll their yees and blush in a coquettish manner. Pope satirizes the fickleness and superficiality of these ladies heroically in the poem telling the reader that their hearts as moving toyshops.

Character of Belinda

Introducing his reader how Belinda wakes up late at noon, Pope mocks at her by telling that as soon as she gets up her eyes look for the love letter which any of her lovers has written about “wounds, charms and ardour’s”. He also ridicules fashionable women’s interest which they take in self embellishment and self-decoration for going to the dance and dinner at the Hampton Court. Here the lord and ladies of the time often used to rejoice the pleasures of the parties and usually discuss these scandals:

One speak of the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian serene;
A third interprets motion, looks and eyes;
At every word of reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that

The Hampton Court is the palace of the British Queen, which is situated on the banks of the river. Thames and Pope satirize the activities of the palace. He tells us how the Queen makes consultations with her ministers here, beside this court becomes a place for gossips and intrigues:

In the various talks the instructive hour, they passed,
Who gave the ball or paid the visit last;

It was where Belinda with her companions indulge in playing the games of cards and enjoy a special coffee. Lord Peter and his fellows are empty-[minded gentlemen and seem to have nothing else to do but flirting with the frivolous ladies. THey are the representatives of the fashionable society of the time. In order to impress these ladies and win their heart, they do not mind to lose the game in their favour.

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