Women in The Rape of the Lock

An analysis of Alexander Pope’s depiction of women in the Rape of the Lock.

By examining Alexander Pope?s satirical poem, ?The Rape of the Lock,? this paper challenges critics? interpretation of ?The Rape? as an endorsement of female passivity and subordination. It attempts to provide a more complex and nuanced reading of the poem?s intended meaning and to show how Pope?s portrayal of women is by no means progressive by today?s standards, reproducing damaging stereotypes about femininity.
Pope uses figures of heroic poetry to criticize 18th century society in its failure to rise to heroic standards. By describing trivial events in heroic terms, he exposes and mocks the pettiness of the characters involved. In particular, he mocks the affectation and vanity of 18th century women. By likening Belinda’s toilette to the ritualized preparations for battle often described in heroic poetry – religious rites and the arming of the hero – he criticizes her shallow obsession with her appearance. Pope describes the preparation for her toilette as the sacred rites of Pride (1: 128), and writes: A heavenly image in the glass appears, he describes. To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears (1: 125-126). Instead of worshiping a god, Belinda worships her own image.