Comparison of Pope and Swift

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Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift in their respective poems, The Rape of the Lock and The Progress of Beauty, offer opposite representations of the nature and function of cosmetics in eighteenth century society. In The Rape of the Lock, Pope gives a positive representation of cosmetic's nature and function in eighteenth century society. On the other hand, Swift's representation takes a very negative tone. Both poets clearly appreciate and admire the natural beauty of a woman and their opposite opinions and therefore representation of the nature and function of cosmetics, springs from this admiration. Pope, whilst slightly ridiculing cosmetics through his use of satire, represents cosmetics in a positive light through portraying it as something which can enhance natural beauty. Swift vehemently opposes cosmetics in his poem and his representation of the nature and function of cosmetics in eighteenth century society is a direct contrast to Pope's. He represents cosmetics as something not that enhances natural beauty but as something that destructs the natural beauty of a woman. Essentially in their poetry, Pope represents cosmetics as having a positive nature and function in eighteenth century society and Swift represents cosmetics as having a negative nature and function in eighteenth century society.

In The Rape of the Lock Pope's appreciation and admiration for Belinda's beauty is evident. "The Rape of the Lock is…a hymn of praise addressed to beauty" , in particular to Belinda's beauty. This praise is evident when Pope writes phrases about Belinda such as "And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day". (Canto 1, 14) Belinda's beauty is frequently praised by Pope throughout The Rape of the Lock and his representation of the nature and function of cosmetics is that it is an enhancer of her natural beauty. When Belinda goes to the mirror to put on her make-up, Pope writes that "A heavenly image in the glass appears". (Canto 1, 125) Her beauty is praised by Pope in its natural form, and Pope describes the function of cosmetics here as something that "calls forth all the wonders of her face". (Canto 1, 142) The function of cosmetics according to Pope is to enhance the natural beauty of women. To brighten her eyes, and to add colour to her cheeks and lips. The wonders of Belinda's face are brought out and are enhanced through the use of cosmetics. The nature of cosmetics here, as represented by Pope, is positive, and its function is to enhance natural beauty.

Swift opposes this representation, rather representing the nature of cosmetics as negative in The Progress of Beauty. As opposed to Pope's representation of the function of cosmetics as an enhancer of natural beauty, Swift represents the function of cosmetics as being a destroyer of natural beauty. A number of times in The Progress of Beauty, Swift alludes to the destructive power of cosmetics due to its poisonous elements. Swift writes that Venus "taught [women] where to find White lead and Lusitanian dish." (Line 60) Swift represents these cosmetics as causing women to waste away; "So rotting Celia strolls the street." (Line 103) All of Pope's descriptions of cosmetics as applied to Celia's face in the poem, are ones of hideousness and disgustingness. The make-up causes her lips to be cracked and her eyes to be gummy. (Line 15) She becomes a "mingled mass of dirt and sweat." (Line 20) There is nothing appealing or attractive in the use of cosmetics as Swift represents it. Rather Swift represents the nature and function of cosmetics as a disgusting thing that destructs the beauty of women. Cosmetics are not represented by Swift simply as a temporary destruction of beauty, but also as having the function of permanently destructing beauty, of doing irreparable damage because of its poisonous elements. The nature of cosmetics as represented by Swift is negative, and its function is represented only as one of destruction.

Pope's representation of the nature and...
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