Pope's Poems and Prose

Belinda: Wronged On Behalf of All Women

On the surface, "The Rape of the Lock", by Alexander Pope, appears to be a mild satire on the recent rise in materialism and the specifically female habit of excessive consumption. Originally published in 1712, the poem was situated among numerous other satires on the same subject, including Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room". However, upon further examination, the poem seems to be far more troubling than what critics have called gentle social commentary dedicated to a friend or a brilliant use of the mock-epic style. The eighteenth century marked the transformation of many social and economic conventions, and these transformations resulted in an increase in power for many women. This shift towards equality was troubling to many men, who became anxious to restore their dominance and force women back into a position of subservience. I will argue that Pope uses Belinda to embody numerous aspects of British femininity, including consumerism and an adherence to the societal standards for relationships, and in doing so, he employs her many imperfections as a means to highlight women's true inferiority.

The dedication of the poem is cited as one of the primary reasons that "The Rape of the...

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