Belinda Placing Blame in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock
I will be examining lines 147-160 of Canto IV in The Rape of the Lock. In this selection, Belinda speaks in a monologue, apparently regretting past actions that have caused her the loss of her lock. However, it becomes clear that she is exaggerating her loss and the preventive measures she could have taken. By citing radical changes that would have been necessary to prevent the occurrence, she makes it clear that it is very difficult for a woman to escape men. In this manner, she is able to lay most of the blame for the rape of the lock on the nature of men rather than her own vain lifestyle. During her exaggerated monologue, Belinda will refer to events earlier in the poem, from her social life at Hampton Court, to the opulent life she has lived, as root causes of her misfortune. All the while though, the undercurrent of the passage will convey the feeling that it is mainly the fault of men since a woman can only do so much to protect herself.
For ever curs'd be this detested Day,
Which snatch'd my best, my fav'rite Curl away!
Happy! Ah ten times happy, had I been,
If Hampton-Court these Eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken Maid,
By Love of Courts to num'rous Ills betray'd.
Oh had I rather unadmir'd remain'd
In some long Isle, or distant Northern Land;
Where the gilt Chariot never marks the Way,
Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea!
There kept my Charms conceal'd from mortal Eye,
Like Roses that in Desarts bloom and die.
What mov'd my Mind with youthful Lords to rome?
Oh had I stay'd, and said my Pray'rs at home! (Pope IV. 147-160)
In lines 147-148, she curses this "detested" day on which her lock was "snatch'd" from her. These words imply a very strong feeling for the lost lock and towards the person who took it. For her, the entire day was a terrible day that will live in infamy forever. In lines 149-150 she says that she would be ten times happier now if she had never even seen Hampton Court. These first four lines introduce the mood of the passage, with Belinda implying that she regrets having lived life the way she has. By saying "Hampton-Court these Eyes had never seen!" (Pope IV. 150) she implies regret at having spent time at Hampton-Court and her actions there. This lock may symbolize her virginity, which indeed was of great pride and value to women of the day. Had she known that this opulent lifestyle would lead to the loss of her lock, or metaphorically, the loss of her virginity through rape, she may have lived a more modest life.
In lines 150-151 Belinda is no longer solely blaming herself as she goes on to suggest that she is not completely at fault for what has transpired. She makes the observation that she is not in any way the first woman to have ever made the mistake of trusting men. Many other young virgin women before her have also been lured by the love of the courts, popularity, and the...