What is the impact of reading Pope's satirical work The Rape of the Lock?

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

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I think for me the impact of reading this hilarious work is to see the various foibles of the eighteenth century acted out before me, but then also to see how we are still subject to the same kind of vices and failings in today's world, albeit in a different way that is shaped by our context and time. The focus that this work gives to artificial beauty and our appearance clearly is exaggerated through the form of mock epic that is adopted. We are presented with a world in which Belinda dresses herself and makes herself look as beautiful as possible, and this process is compared to a warrior putting on armour and readying himself for a life or death struggle.

On the one hand, such descriptions is greatly amusing as Pope reveals the superficial nature of his society and the excesses of those characters like Belinda who thought they had to take such care and invest such energy and resources in their outward appearance. However, it made me think of the ways in which society does in fact judge so harshly based on superficial qualities alone. In our day and age, celebrities who go out into the public eye and do not look perfect are ridiculed and gossiped about to their detriment. The impact of reading this satire for me was to actually reflect on the kind of ways in which this situation is still very true for us today. On the one hand, Belinda's superficial qualities are shown with great hilarity. On the other hand, there is a very serious point behind it: Belinda lives and operates in a world that will judge her on her superifical appearance alone, and that is something she cannot ignore. Perhaps our own world is not that different any more. I just need to go and spend a few hours in front a mirror now before I go out to work.


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