In The Rape of the Lock, please explain the following lines:"or her new brocade, forget her pray'rs or miss a masquerade, or lose her heart,or necklace,at a ball;"

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

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This quote actually comes towards the beginning of this excellent mock epic, and is part of the description of Pope's speculation of what might happen to the poor Belinda on a particularly forboding day. The full quote is as follows:

Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law, 
Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw, 
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade, 
Forget her Pray'rs, or miss a Masquerade, 
Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball....

Note the way that this quote involves the use of contrast in the way that the trivial and the important are contrasted in these five lines. Thus he muses about the various possibilities: will she lose her chastity, or will she just forget about her prayers or miss a masquerade ball? There is actually an example of zeugma in the third and fifth lines of this quote, as the speaker wonders if Belinda will "stain her Honour, or her new Brocade" and then if she will "loseher Heart, or Necklace, at a ball." Note the way that "stain" and "lose" both work to link two different concepts. Of course, lace (or "brocade") and a necklace are much more easy to replace or to find again rather than a stained honour and a lost heart. Through these lines therefore, Pope beings to poke gentle fun at the ensuing action by the contrast between the serious and the trivial.

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