The Downfalls of Materialism in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock

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The Downfalls of Materialism in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock

Commodities have been a part of human culture from the start of the first civilizations. They can be crudely constructed or richly made works of art; they are still objects, however. Some people treasure their possessions more than anything in the world. These objects can become the driving force behind a person's life and desires. When someone's prized possession is stolen, it may seem as though a disaster has taken place. Those who witness the aftermath of a stolen possession may comment on the triviality of both the theft and the owner's reaction to the loss. In The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope is commenting on the triviality of a lost possession. Pope blurs
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He continues to criticize the nature of the people in the poem in the lines, "Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, / If she inspire, and he approve my lays" (1.5-6). The first twelve lines in canto one set up the background of the poem, after which Pope begins his critical look at the possessions that abound in the poem. He opens this critical look by observing Belinda sleeping. She is surrounded by personal possessions, such as the "white curtains" (1.13), the "lapdogs" (1.15), and the "pressed watch" (1.18). The watch is described as chiming with a "silver sound" (1.18), which illustrates the richness of Belinda's possessions.

Belinda's guardian Sylph, Ariel, warns her in a dream of the triviality of worldly goods: "Hear and believe! Thy own importance know, / Nor bound thy narrow views to things below" (1.35-36). Ariel continues his warning to Belinda about the triviality of the desire for objects when he describes men, "With varying vanities, from every part, / They shift the moving toyshop of their heart; / Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive, / Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive" (1.99-102). According to Paul Baines, "Men become a succession of metonymic objects, a series of external stimulants which substitute for desire in a heart which is itself no more than a
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