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Critically evaluate the toilet scene of Belinda in The Rape of the Lock.

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iamalive | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:49 PM via web

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Critically evaluate the toilet scene of Belinda in The Rape of the Lock.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:20 AM (Answer #1)

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At the end of Canto One of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, Belinda is described as getting herself ready to go out on an excursion with her friends. The text provides very specific details regarding what Belinda is doing.

The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,
Transform'd to Combs, the speckled and the white.
Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms;
The Fair each moment rises in her Charms,
Repairs her Smiles, awakens ev'ry Grace,
And calls forth all the Wonders of her Face;
Sees by Degrees a purer Blush arise,
And keener Lightnings quicken in her Eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling Care;
These set the Head, and those divide the Hair,
Some fold the Sleeve, while others plait the Gown;
And Betty's prais'd for Labours not her own.

Evaluating this excerpt of the text requires one to recognize a woman's vanity. Here, Belinda is doing everything she possibly can to insure that her beauty is illuminated. Her use of powder shows that her face contains flaws which she feels compelled to cover. Her use of the Bibles show that she is using prayer to pray that what she does will "work" in order to enhance her beauty.

Belinda is not alone though. She has servants around her whom help her to get ready. This shows her wealth. Normal woman of this time would not have had servants to help them get ready.

Therefore, the toilet scene is used to show the vanity associated with women. The end of the cantos functions very well in detailing the lengths one will go to in order to insure that they are beautiful.

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