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The Role Of Women In The Rape Of The Lock

1043 words - 4 pages

On the surface, The Rape of the Lock is a retelling of an episode that caused a feud between two families in the form of an epic. One might believe that in his version, Alexander Pope portrayed the women of the story as shallow, vain little girls, however on a deeper level the women are crucial to the story. Aside from not being as helpless as they appear, each woman possesses a different kind of power that contributes to their character greatly. Rather than being the conceited and shallow figures expected of the time period, the women in The Rape of the Lock posses more power than meets the eye.
First of all, the poems main focus is Belinda. She is presented as an upper class aristocratic woman with no real duties or concerns. She is constantly surrounded by Sylphs who's only purpose is to protect and pamper her. This is one example of her importance, the fact that she requires such protection suggests a certain level of importance to begin with. As she goes about her day, she sleeps in quite late, takes her time getting ready and being pampered, then she sets out to enjoy her afternoon with friends. Not once does she have to ask permission from anyone or answer to any man. For a woman in this time, this is a big deal, women were usually seen as dependent upon their husbands, but here Belinda can do as she pleases. She also gets into a heated argument with the Baron, "See, fierce Belinda on the Baron flies, With more than usual Lightning in her Eyes;" (Canto V, 75-76). Although Belinda may not be triumphant in the end, her power of free will is in stark contrast to most representations of 18th century women.
Another important female character in this story is Thalestris, one of Belinda's friends. She is also portrayed as rather shallow or vain but she too has her own form of strength. When the Baron takes the lock of hair from Belinda, Thalestris becomes outraged. "Already hear the horrid things they say, Already see you a degraded toast, And all your honor in a whisper lost! How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend? 'Twill then be Infamy to seem your Friend!" (Canto IV, 108-112). This response may seem rude and shallow and that may be how Pope intended her character to appear. However by use of the power of persuasion, Thalestris soon sends Belinda into a fit of rage and subtly encourages Belinda to seek revenge on the Baron and is quite successful. Another example of Thalestris' power of persuasion is shown when she insists that her "beau" Sir Plume order the Baron to return Belinda's lock of hair. To his credit, Sir Plume does as she asks without a second thought. In a slight role reversal he actually appears to be the dependent partner, doing what he's told with no questions asked or as Pope put it, "With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face," (Canto IV, 125). That would make Thalestris the dominant partner, a role almost exclusively for men in these times. She is again portrayed in Canto V during the battle scene as...

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