Jonathan Swift’s poem, “A Lady’s Dressing Room,” represents a man’s love for a woman as the author, Strephon, and audience explore the happenings inside a woman’s bedroom. Like many other men, Strephon is an obsessed lover whose vision of women is distorted by eighteenth century radical ideals of love and beauty. While the poem is a satire, Swift tries to establish that love is blind and presents that love is only based on beauty of women. By introducing an idealistic lover into a realistic environment, he examines the disturbing end results as Celia falls from her godlike state. As she is humanized, Swift successfully demolishes the ridiculous fantasies of love and beauty, and men are also able to see more clearly behind the clothing and make-up. In “A Lady’s Dressing Room,” Swift exposes the contradiction between idealized love created by eighteenth century society and reality, as he forces Strephon see past Celia’s façade by investigating Celia’s dressing room and discovering traumatizing facts as well as disillusioning him with the help of Swift’s vivid description.
Swift represents love as impractical and unnatural in his satire in order to mock eighteenth century society because of their obsession with love and beauty. Initially, Swift begins by referring to Celia as a “goddess from her chamber…” (ln 1) in order to mock the glorification women tend to receive from men. Also, Celia spends “five hours…in dressing” (ln 2-3). He attacks and ridicules the idealizations of love and beauty because women were seen as gorgeous goddesses and their beaus idolize them to no end. Women also spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to make themselves beautiful and well dressed, but they actually spend little time trying to conceal their imperfections, such as containing their character flaws like vanity and pride.
In addition, Strephon is first introduced as the avid lover, who is blinded by Celia’s beauty and his infatuation for her. He sneaks into the Celia’s chamber before Betty, the maid, can tend to the littered room. Strephon makes his discovery of reality as he observes the nature of the dressing room (ln 5-8). The lover is removed from his impractical and romantic bounds and into a realm of reality, where he comes into contact with the filthy nature of the physical. Strephon combs through Celia’s items such as her clothing that is “besmeared” from her sweat near the underarms. He slowly unmasks his love and fantasies of Celia and slowly begins to realize how the “…men lie, /In calling Celia sweet and cleanly” (ln 11-18). The vivid description of her chaotic dressing room does not fit the portrayal of a refined and traditional lady. Thus, Strephon begins to wonder what kind of lady Celia is. Therefore, Swift condemns the glorification women receive from society in order to destroy the unrealistic and capricious ideals of love.
Moreover, as Strephon surveys deeper into the room, nothing gets past him. He finds more items that begin to turn...