Essay: Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock

Considered one of the most popular writings of the eighteenth century, Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock provided the society with a genuine interpretation of the high social class. While the poem focuses issues of vanity and materialistic aspects throughout the story, as a whole Pope’s creates a sexual analogy of raping the lock.
At the poem is titled Rape of the Lock the act of cutting off Belinda’s hair has an extremely sexual connotation. As the Baron strategizes to ‘rape’ Belinda’s hair, Pope introduces the line ‘By force to ravish, or by fraud betray’ (II.32) to demonstrate to the reader, that this act of ‘raping’ her hair is in fact a sexual act of violence, thus a violation. The Baron appears to be prepared to ‘fraud betray’ which in a sense proposes his readiness to void her of her precious lock. Belinda is a very self-aware and concerned with her looks, thus she is perfect candidate to humiliate.
While Belinda’s character is seen as materialistic and vain, her hair itself has its own sexual identity as it functions nearly as her chastity. As society urged women to stay virginal until married, this act of raping her lock, takes away her virginity thus leaving her ostracized by society. As this act is committed in public, the humiliation is dramatized and her chastity is lost. After her lock is lost, she hides herself from the rest of the party, and mourns her loss.
As Belinda wallows in the demise of her lock, she seems clearly more concerned about her reputation, than the actual act of her lock being cut. In the instance of the rape, she exclaims, ‘Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize/ Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!’ (IV.176). Her response to her lock being cut is interesting in the sense that if the hair was not noticeable, and if her beauty has not been put in the compromising position, this instance would not have been as ‘serious’. Belinda’s character is evidently tremendously vain, and worships her face, and as she gets ready for the party, she sits in front of the mirror and admires her masterpiece, ‘First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores,/With head uncover’d the cosmetic powers./ A heavenly image in the glass appears;’ (I. 123-126). Due to the fact that her lock was taken from her and her reputation had been tarnished, her vanity and the way society viewed her, her status has been temporally succumbed to a commoner.
Having her reputation tarnished, and being humiliated in public, Pope made his point by demonstrating that the eighteenth century society was mainly focused on appearances. In this mock-epic, he was able to compose a text, so exaggerated and vain that characters in the poem all come to life. The issue of the sexual connotation in the poem portrays each characters desire for sex, and lust.
The Rape of the Lock not only functions as a poem that portrays a society as materialistic, it also exposes Belinda in the way of loosing precious lock, thus her virginity, and social status.

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