Study Questions on Pope
"The Rape of The Lock"
Pope reviesed this poem several times. Clarissa's speech (lines 9-34 Canto 5) was added in 1717. What, in your view, is the effect of this addition? Significant or not? An improvement or not? Explain.
The Rape of the Lock's underlying subject is disintegration and flux. Matter constantly changes shape. Nothing remains stable for very long. The sylphs were themselves once human beings: as Ariel tells Belinda in the first Canto, "by a soft transition we repair / from earthly Vehicles to these of Air". Pope continually confronts the reader with the transience of human life and the mutability of female beauty. He does so most explicitly in Clarissa's speech in Canto V, warning that "frail beauty must decay" and that "painted or not painted, all shall fade", but the implication of such transience is present in much of the poem's imagery. As Pope says in describing Belinda's epic lamentation after the "rape": The final canto begins with "grave" Clarissa's advice parodying Sarpedon's speech to Glaucus in the Iliad, Book XII, and opening "more clearly the MORAL of the Poem". Clarissa points to the transience of all human beauty and urges the participants to espouse "good Humour". But both factions are beyond such moral considerations by now and rush instead to mortal combat: All side in Parties, and begin th' Attack;
Fans clap, Silks russle, and tough Whalebones crack;
The battle of the sexes ensues and, although it is at first finely balanced, it ends with the women victorious when Belinda throws snuff in the Baron's nose. Triumphantly she demands that he return the lock, but it is nowhere to be found. The narrator surmises on its whereabouts, and the poem ends when the muse sees it rise upward, transformed into a star: This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And mid'st the Stars inscribe Belinda's Name!
The poem ends, as it had begun, with praise for Belinda's beauty that must eclipse the day. 2.)...
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