The character of Belinda is the heroine of The Rape of the Lock. Pope bases her character on the historical Arabella Fermor, the daughter of an aristocratic Catholic family. Robert, Lord Petre, a family friend, snipped a lock of her hair without permission, thereby causing a rift between their two families. Pope depicts this incident in the poem.
The Baron is an admirer of Belinda’s, and he enacts the “rape of the lock” by cutting off one of the curls of hair that hung down her neck. He is based on the historical Robert, Lord Petre.
Though Caryll is not so much a character in the poem (he is mentioned only in line 3), he is the dedicatee of the poem. “Caryll” is John Caryll, a friend of Pope’s who witnessed the incident between Arabella Fermor and Lord Petre. He commissioned Pope to turn the incident into a jest in the hope that it would encourage reconciliation between the two families.
Clarissa is one of the women in attendance at the Hampton Court party. She is complicit in the severing of Belinda’s hair, lending her sewing scissors to the Baron. She later delivers a moralizing sermon on the ephemeral nature of beauty and the importance of good sense once a woman’s looks have faded.
Ariel is Belinda’s guardian Sylph. Once a coquettish woman during his human life, he is now an air spirit who protects virginal women with the aid of an army of Sylphs. Pope takes the sprite’s name from the character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Umbriel is a mischievous Gnome, who travels to the Cave of Spleen and returns with a bag of sighs and a vial of tears which he uses to intensify Belinda’s despair at the loss of her hair.
Thalestris is Belinda’s friend. She tries to convince Belinda to avenge the Baron’s affront to her honor and is the most vicious aggressor in the battle over the lock. Appropriately, Pope takes her name from an Amazonian Queen of Greek mythology.
Pope’s Poems and Prose Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Pope’s Poems and Prose is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.