What lines in The Rape of the Lock suggest that Pope reveals society's infatuation with superficial qualities such as physical beauty?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the brilliant aspects of this mock epic is the way in which Pope exposes the focus of his society on various superficial aspects such as outward appearance. This is of course shown through the great care and attention that Belinda lavishes upon her appearance, but it is also shown in the kind of comments that Pope makes about the people who occupy this privileged world and the concerns they have. Consider the following extract from canto 3 which describes court life of Hampton Court, outside of London:

Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,

To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;

In various talks th'instructive hours they passed,

Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;

One speaks the glory of the British queen,

And one describes a charming Indian screen;

A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;

At every word a reputation dies.

Note how the superficiality of court life is therefore presented through the meaningless chatter of the nobles. However, as meaningless as this is, it is clear that it does have a very real effect, as the final line makes clear. Superficiality, especially that of outer appearance, is therefore satirised in this brilliant mock epic, but at the same time Pope points towards the very serious consequences of such superficial gossip.


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