Belinda's Toilet Scene | The Rape of Lock | Belinda

The Rape of the Lock , a mock Epic par excellence is the result of John carols request to to pope to write a poem that would help to laugh away a tiff (quarrel)between the Peters and Fermores. But in doing so Pope has increased the range of his vision and has given, as Dr. Johnson says, 'the whole detail of a  female day. This documentation, however is wholly subjective since it also encapsulates Pope's attitude towards 18 th century aristocratic women in general and Belinda in particular.

Belinda's toilet scene

    Pope's "The Rape of Lock" is a satiric overview of the details of an entire female day. One of the most important functions of this day is the toilette or the dressing up of the female protagonist. The event is given the seriousness of an epic hero getting ready (dressed) before going out to fight the most important battle of his life. This parallel between Belinda and perhaps Hetor or Achilles is the first mock heroic dig that Pope takes at the world of the fopes ( fashionable gentleman) and belles ( fashionable ladies) .

Belinda's Toilet Scene
Belinda's Toilet Scene

    From the very beginning of her dressing is seen as a receiver of Pope's  calculated mock - heroic campaign. The curtain 'unveils' automatically to  'display'  the dressing table. This accords a supernatural glow to an otherwise everyday occurrence of a lady coming before the toilette table to complete her dress and give finishing touches to her make - up. 

    Next we find the disarray of her dressing table being 'highlighted'  of her dressing table being 'highlighted' as one that is organized according to 'mystic order'. Her dual role as the goddess of beuty as well ass it's chief priestess is also scrutinized satirically via mock heroic inflation. It shows that in a 'rite of pride' this is perfectly admissible and not at all absurd. 

    Then we find Belinda being complimented as an important person because 'various offerings of the world appear' before her. A mock heroic dig ( An aggressive remark directed at a person intended to have a telling effect ) at her epical powers is seen when Pope make the elephant mate with a tortoise so that she can comb her hair. 

    A comparison with the oracles at the temple of Delphi  ( meaning - An ancient Greek city on the slopes of Mount Parnassus)  is found when Pope makes her maid Betty an ' inferior priestess' helping the chief Oracle in manifesting the decree (will or wishes)  of God.  She gets all the praise for the work done on Belinda by the sylphs. 

    But the most important mock - heroic comparison comes when the articles found on Belinda's toilette table find a parallel with the essential luggage of a soldier moving to the front. This is found in the couplet - 

 "Files of pins extend their shining rows                     puffs, powders, patches,  Bible, Billet - doux".

    The pin at once refers to the hair or hat pins used by Belinda.  It also present the image of the bayonet used by the soldier at the tip of his rifle. 

     'Puffs' refer to the article used to smear talcum powder ; it also reminds us of gunpowder smoke. 

'Powder' can be both - talcum powder and gun powder. 

'Bible' and 'billet doux' are part of the luggage of a soldier. 

    The former is needed to perform his last rites. The latter is a kind of memory aid reminding him about his loved ones. 'Bible' and 'billet doux' are also found lying neglected on Belinda's dressing table. 

    Moliere in "Tartuffe" ( The name of a french play )  Says that the hand made papers of the Bible were used as curlers by contemporary women. 

    Just as a soldier practice his art, so is Belinda shown to be perfecting her charms. She is rehearsing her walk, her talk,  her smile, and her blushes. Pope takes care to inform the readers that the charm of Belinda is not natural. It is cultivated - the product of hard labour before the dressing table mirror . For this reason the beauty that 'slowly' emerges is 'awful'. One of the meanings of the word however, is "inspired by a feeling of fearful wonderment or reverence".

    Pope uses the word in this sense. It is true that Belinda's beauty evokes amazement. But one is more terror - struck than stunned by its brilliance. It reminds us of W.B. Yeats 's  "A terrible beauty is born". This is the final mock - heroic dig thrown at  his heroine by the poet. 

    Thorough these mock - heroic references Pope doubtlessly wants to show Belinda as an inflated item of satiric description. He compares her to various literary, cultural,  and historical greats not merely for the fun of it.  These comparison miniaturize her and show her as diminutive. But the more important reason seems to be that this Pope's unique method of complimenting Belinda 's tremendous beauty. The whole section is a panegyric ( Is a formal public speech, or writen verse deliver in high praise of a person or thing ) on Belinda's ethereal beauty ( Heavenly ). The mock - heroic method only highlights this compliment. 

  • Rape of the Lock | Critical Analysis Rape of the Lock Line By Line