Discuss one or two specific examples of such contradictions in "Epistle II. To a Lady."
Of Pope's "Epistle 2. To a Lady," our editors write, "If women are full of contradictions, so are Pope's couplets, torn between sympathy and satiric bite. The poet finds himself strangely attracted to what he disapproves, and many female readers, then and now, have felt the same way about the poem."
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I certainly agree with the quote that you have provided above. It is clear that Pope in this poem writes a lot that is to be equally condemned as it is to be praised. The emphasis he maintains throughout the poem of women being "frail creatures" who are unsuited to hard work and whose proper place is the domestic sphere is something that is definitely unsavoury to our modern ears. However, at the same time, Pope, at various stages in the poem, offers us a number of very truthful pictures and images of the fate of women and their rather limited and restricted position in society, which can be seen as remaining true today. Note the rather chilling image that Poe gives us of women in old age in the following quote:
See how the World its Veterans rewards!
A Youth of Frolicks, an old Age of Cards,
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without Lovers, old without a Friend,
A Fop their Passion, but their Prize a Sot,
Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot!
The idea of old women, having enoyed "A Youth of Frolicks," and then condemned to a kind of living death in their final years, where they are described as "Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot," is rather shocking but at the same time we recognise the truth of this and also how it could equally be applied to our world today. Pope then seems to be contradictory in the way that his poem deliberately stands in opposition to women but at the same time in places shows great empathy and understanding of them.
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