the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pope, The Rape of the Lock

"The Rape of the Lock" is amusing because of the air of seriousness and the mildest hint of subtle satire that Pope creates. Belinda's morning preparations are likened to a goddess' ritual. The table is more than a place for a card game; it is a battlefield filled with kidnappings and stratagems of war. While the incident is far from being mundane, the reactions of all characters involved certainly places a favorable light on reason.

First off, we have the Baron's obsession with the lock of hair. The importance of what is essentially trash is reasonable as a symbol of devotion between two lovers, but not in the Baron's case. If he were her suitor/lover/whatnot, then he could have easily asked for such a token. And as he was not an affable friend to Belinda, since he was such a knave as to steal the favor, why did he not go for a glove (more easily obtained: "Oh, you must have dropped it on the street somewhere) or a kiss (so much more rogueish and black-hearted)?

Pope seems to mock himself, as he extends the war metaphor from the battle of the cards to the tension in real life. The card table expands all of Asia and then some, with the four suits of armies in wild disorder seen (line 79). The kings, queens and knaves are catalogued with their accessories as in epic poems. Then the overglorified coffee break which brings some real-life perspective back to the jaws of ruin, the walls, the woods and long canals (lines 92, 100, 105-120). Just when the mists of battle lift and the card table is visible, Pope dives right into another hyperbolic conflict. The Baron isn't holding a pair of scissors; he's armed with a two-edged weapon (oh my!). Line 136 tells that a thousand wings exist merely to twitch the lock, back and forth three times. The Baron is so fixated on capturing his prize, and Pope is so very intent on creating a spectacular scene for his emotions. Not only his disposition to smell her hair, but their ensuing battle as well.

Like a commentator for a boxing match, Pope calls out the punches: "she runs to tackle," "Oh, a block with one finger and a thumb, no less," "She throws, oh, oh, it's snuff! She throws snuff at him," "And here, she takes out a bodkin-dagger," "it's a close call, there's some scuffling...and there it goes, a sudden star, that radiant trail of hair...and it's over." Such enthusiam and excitement shouldn't be limited to clash of titans or meeting of battalions; a lady's attachment to her curls is just as great, if not greater.


Blogger Daniel Lupton said...

Christina, this is a very fun post and I like your retelling of Canto 3. However, you don't really respond to the prompt except to say that Pope portrays reason favorably. How so? The rest of your post doesn't really make this clear.

10:19 PM  

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