Gender Dialectic and Myth of Passive Womanhood in Rape of the Lock

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  • Topic: Woman, Lock of hair, Beauty
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  • Published : April 9, 2012
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The Interplay of the Gender Dialectic:
“Dialectic”: According to the oxford dictionary the word Dialectic stands for the meaning; “The way in which two aspects of a situation affect each other.” The poem Rape of the Lock discusses the relationship between men and women and how they affect each other. Pope examines the oppressed position of women infringement on a woman's personal space, her person and pride by an aggressive male (the Baron) are certainly problems not to be taken lightly. In today's society these things translate to sexual harassment. Pope also raises the issue of conflicting love, the opposition between spiritual and secular love. The poem portrays men and women as more concerned with social status, material values and physical beauty than the development of the spirit or of the character, Pope suggests former is the morally wrong part and criticises(through satire) his character for the vanity and lack of morality. The significance of a woman’s outward beauty (especially Belinda's) has direct consequence for her role in the society. The place of a woman is shaped by social and economic forces. Women are routinely sub-ordinate in the “public” sphere, partly because of their confinement to role associated with being wives. Belinda is an unmarried upper class woman, maintaining her position in high society will depend on marriage; though not one necessarily of her choosing, her marriage will not ultimately depend on her intelligence or her personality, as women were not valued as objects of individuality but as beautiful objects to possess. “The adventurous Baron the bright locks admired, He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired” Therefore Belinda’s strength is her physical appearance as he compares a hero’s donning of armour to Belinda’s being made up w a her dressing table; here files of pins extend their shining rows, puffs, powders, patches, Bible, billets doux .

“Now awful beauty puts on all its- arms”

We see a women ready to go into battle of the sexes whom the Baron ( her opponent) already regards as a threat specifically, her beauty is a threat in that it empowers Belinda and means he may have to compete with other men for her affection. The idea of a women holding power of any sort over a man attacks the male ego. He is resolved to win, or by fraud betray; “For when success a lover’s toil attend, few ask if fraud or force attained his ends” The Baron will either have the lock or destroy the any power she possesses with it. The war Pope illustrates between men and women continues with the playing of the card game. Instead of fighting on the traditional battlefield Belinda plays cards against the Baron. The playing of the game and the use of the word conquest could also represent the idea that Belinda is fighting for survival in her survival in her societal circle. She could view the playing of the game as a battle to win suitors, knights. Regardless Belinda wins the card game and offends the Baron’s pride. Out to take the revenge, to reclaim his dignity and steal hers, the Baron cuts Belinda’s prized locks of hair. The baron has taken Belinda’s hair as if he has taken her power away. He cuts from her a symbol of her beauty, stealing what she regards as her honour. This disempowerment is not unlike an actual rape. Belinda values her lock of hair as her source of honour; hence the baron takes away her virtue. Belinda is approached by older women of the court, who has lost her own beauty and advises Belinda to rely on inner grace; “Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul” While the comment strikes a stinging chord with Belinda, the court does not find merit in the idea that women’s inner values are important. “Clarissa” the dame, sounds a title feminist for her time. The idea that the women’s beauty existed in the character was not yet a popular notion, still Belinda is belittled by...
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