Essay on The Rape of the Lock

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The Rape of the Lock

Alexander Pope's mock heroic epic The Rape of the Lock appears to be a light subject addressed with a satiric tone and structure. Pope often regards the unwanted cutting of a woman's hair as a trivial thing, but the fashionable world takes it seriously. Upon closer examination Pope has, perhaps unwittingly, broached issues worthy of earnest consideration. The Rape of the Lock at first glance is a commentary on human vanity and the ritual of courtship. The poem also discusses the relationship between men and women, which is the more substantial matter in particular. Pope examines the oppressed position of women. Infringement on a woman's personal space, her person and her pride by an aggressive male (the Baron)
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Belinda's strength is her physical appearance. Pope mocks the importance placed on appearance as he compares a hero's donning of armour to Belinda's being made up at her dressing table;

Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet doux. Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms... (I, 137-39)

We see a woman ready to go into the battle of the sexes whom the Baron (her opponent) already regards as a threat. Specifically, her beauty is a threat in that it empowers Belinda and means he may have to compete with other men for her affection. The idea of a woman holding power of any sort over a man attacks the male ego or at least threatens the Baron's ego. He is

Resolved to win, or by fraud betray; For when success a lover's toil attends, Few ask if fraud or force attained his ends. (II, 31-33)

The Baron will either have the lock, or destroy any power she possesses with it. The war Pope illustrates between men and women continues with the playing of the card game. Instead of fighting on the traditional battlefield Belinda plays cards against the Baron, eager to meet him on his own terms:

Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, Burns to encounter two adventurous knights, At
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