How can I discuss vanity in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"?I only get information about female vanity, but I want to discuss other aspects where the poem reflects vanity in 18th century. plz...

How can I discuss vanity in the poem "The Rape of the Lock"?

I only get information about female vanity, but I want to discuss other aspects where the poem reflects vanity in 18th century. plz help me

 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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There is a large focus on women's vanity in "The Rape of the Lock" but it is also a comment on the vanity and undeserved sense of importance of humanity in general. Pope was making specific fun of an actual event between two Catholic, presumably upper class, families where this event actually happened. Prior to the late 19th century, there was this idea that women should not cut their hair. If they did, it was looked upon as a loss of femininity or even a loss of chastity. Pope was making fun of these trivial things which people (more so with the upper class) made too much fuss over. Pope himself mingled in upper class circles and the aristocracy and although a part of that life, he was critical of it as well.

Note that the Baron cuts the lock after losing a hand at playing cards. He is vain himself, perhaps feeling a loss of pride after losing. Also note that this is a form of burlesque, which is taking something trivial and treating it with a serious literary style: in this case, an epic poem. This is why Pope calls it a heroi-comical poem. He takes the trivial rituals of feminine grooming, card games and tea parties and describes them as Homer would describe the events of the Odyssey. Pope isn't just commenting on female vanity. He's mocking the whole aristocracy who treat their lavish, sheltered, and too comfortable lifestyle with more seriousness and significance than it deserves.

Pope is mocking the vanity of all the rituals involved: the tea parties, card games, and privileged meetings of this class. Pope criticizes the way these people worship these really trivial rituals in attempts to give their lives more importance. It is a playful indictment of an entire class lifestyle; not just a comment on female vanity.

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