Friday, October 28, 2016

For Monday: The Rape of the Lock, Cantos 1-2

NOTE: If you missed class, see the post below with a handout about The Rape of the Lock. Also note that we do have class on Monday, but not on Wednesday; I moved Paper #2 back one class period. 

A Brief Synopsis of Canto 1-2

Canto 1:
Begins with the standard epic invocation to the Muse (see handout below); then the scene opens on Belinda's bedroom, where she wakes up at noon to the barking of her dog, Shock. She rings for the servant and tries to get ready for the day while all around her, her guardian spirits are flitting about. These Sylphs are the spirits of former gentlewomen who died, and now guard the daily life of rich, insipid noblewomen. The chief sylph is Ariel, who fears that a terrible fate is about to meet her mistress--and from the worst enemy of all, man! Meanwhile, Belinda goes to her "temple," her toilet--which means her dressing table (not our toilet)--and Pope describes her various makeups and perfumes in the terms of a hero arming for battle.

Canto 2:
Belinda is walking out about the town, and the entire world looks on her smiling face, which "shine[s] on all alike." She is the perfect mask of nobility and beauty, hiding her true nature, but attracting even "infidels" with its beauty. In the back of her head are two fashionably locks of hair, neatly arranged for everyone to see. A Baron has made it his mission to cut off these locks, and builds an Altar to see his plan through (a mock-epic touch); his Altar is built of very common place items--French novels (always about love, and some were pornographic), women's garters, gloves, and "the trophies of his former loves." Ariel sees this and marshals the other sylphs to her defense, just as a hero would at the beginning of a great battle. He explains all the terrible things that could happen to Belinda: she might lose her virginity, or break her China jar (teacup); she might lose her honor, or stain her dress; or she might lose her heart, or a necklace (note how every truly bad thing is compared to something small and insignificant, but to Ariel both are of equal importance). So the various sylphs take their positions around Belinda, while Ariel decides to guard her dog, Shock. He then warns the spirits that a terrible fate will meet the sylphs who fail in their duty to Belinda. 

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Discuss a passage where Pope employs mock-epic language or imagery to describe a relatively insignificant moment. How does he make the mundane seem mighty or momentous? 

Q2: Somewhat related to the above, if Arabella was reading this and realized that she was Belinda, where might she be offended by the portrayal? Would she see this as a good humored 'roast' of her situation, or is this more like Tom Jones, where the author means to satirize social types like her, full of sham morality? 

Q3: According to the poem, who are the sylphs and how are they made? What kind of woman in life becomes a Salamander, or a Gnome? How might these descriptions also have a satirical edge to them?

Q4: Pope loves to play with difficult syntax and mirroring language, such as this passage in Canto 1: "Where with wigs, with sword-knots sword/knots strive,/Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive" (47). How can you translate this passage into modern English? What is he trying to say here and why do you think he makes it dense rather than transparent? 


  1. Q#1
    I'm going to look at the altar scene with the man. Without reading the summary here, I would think that he is going to an extraordinary place with a beautiful altar set up. The book shows him praying strongly for the acceptance to be around this woman. He gives offerings that he thinks will help. When we break down the passage, he is just desperate to cut off this woman's hair. He prays and gives offerings that reflect a woman's character. Maybe, he thinks that will help him in getting close with this woman. Here Pope as turned a boring story in an epic tale of desperation and dedication from this man.

    I think Arabella would be most offended by the opening scene. It shows Belinda as being lazy, showing that she woke up at noon instead of earlier like other women would. She also beats the floor with her sandal to rise her servant. That shows her impatient behavior. I think that she did not laugh at that description of Belinda. She definitely saw it as satirical to women just like her.

  2. Q1- The most obvious use of mock imagery is definitely the description of Belinda's morning routine, specifically her use of the toilet. Pope describes her morning ritual as if she were prepping for battle, similar to Achilles or other legendary warriors. However, instead of donning armor and chain mail, she ritualistically applies perfume and makeup. Rather than fighting on a battlefield, she "battles" romance and potential suitors. With this exaggerated language Pope is able to make an ordinary activity feel like it requires an intense orchestral soundtrack

    Q2- If Arabella was upset after reading this, I highly doubt that Pope's introduction helped to soften the blow. Rape of the Lock is possibly one of the most passive aggressive things I have ever read. I think that the addition of the introduction changed the feel of the piece from an overkill roast, to an intense mockery. The fact that Pope made blatantly transparent changes is just another jab at Arabella.

  3. 1. My favorite part in which mocks the events of this poem with the intensity of an epic war would be that of page 48, lines 124-125. As spoken of in lecture, this passage states, “With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers. /A heavenly image in the glass appears” (Pope 48). This is humorous because he is comparing her first looking in the mirror to that of the “cosmetic powers” and stating that she is a “heavenly image.” This is one of Pope’s more obvious satires to me because he is making a word play from “cosmetic” sounding like “cosmic,” as referring to the powers of the sky. Instances like this is how Pope turns a simple, (in more ways than one) topic and makes it appear as the beginnings of an epic fight in the cosmos.

    2. If Arabella were to be reading this, I feel as though an offensive aspect would be the concept that the woman in this piece focuses so intently on her outward appearance to try to be someone that looks a certain way. She might be offended that as previously said in lecture, it is depicting her as a lady that only cares about outward appearances. To my knowledge, this piece does not expound on any traits of her character, rather just reflecting the esteemed opinion she has upon her outward self. To reveal the possibly of this being a cultural and social roast, I think it is key to keep in mind that the “creatures” in the poem with her are as concerned about appearances as she it, maybe more so. Could it be, when considering the previous, that Pope is not only making fun of Arabella and her society, but also saying that her society is indeed to blame for her misguided priories in life?

    Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. Signet Classics, n.d. Print, 48.

  4. 1) Like we talked about in class on page 48 it talks about the ladies being so fixed on outward appearance. I think this fits in with mockery because it is almost shallow the way the ladies depened on their outward appearance. They are getting ready for everyday life for "The battle of Love". This is comical because they are so fixed on being perfect on the outside and if that's their biggest problem at the moment is preparing for a battle of love then they are living a pretty good life.

    2) I think that if Arabella were to read this then she would be offended because she would see that everything is based on outward appearance. Just like I talked about in my response above. I think that she would see how shallow it is to only be worried about what you look like on the outside instead of worrying about her character.I find it so entertaining that Pope does not care whose feelings he is hurting and that he is straight forward with everything and doesn't try to take it easy on anyone.

  5. Q1: The best example of mock-epic language is the part on pages 52-53, lines 101-122, where the Ariel is comparing two problems that were unequal in severity like her “break[ing] Diana’s Law, / Or some frail China jar receive a flaw”. Then Ariel’s delegation of who protects what of Belinda’s body or items. It’s almost like the rally to battle where the general is calling the soldiers to war and to their stations, except it’s not in the act to protect the castle or country, but to protect the vanity of Belinda.

    Q2: I think that she may have seen it as an insult at first, but then since its hidden under all this complex language and mysticism, she might have not looked that much into it. Just like she may have done with the dedication, because if you just glance over it quickly and don’t take the time to slowly read it and take in every detail, she probably missed the backhanded “God, bless your soul” toned ‘compliment’, and probably saw his insincere praise and reverence as honest and real. Who knows, maybe she felt better about it when it wasn’t blatantly about her and seemed more detached, even though everyone still knew it was about her.