In The Rape of the Lock, is there anything ridiculous about the character of Belinda?

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

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This famous mock epic was actually based on a real event, which occurred when Lord Petre cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor's hair, and the Fermor family declared that this was a calamity. Pope wrote the poem to poke gentle fun at the Fermor family and to suggest that their response was rather exaggerated considering the exact nature of the offence. It is therefore clear that this poem does present Belinda, the character meant to be a thinly veiled disguised Arabella Fermor, in a rather ridiculous manner. This is most clearly seen in Belinda's response to having her lock cut from her in Canto 4:

Happy! ah, ten times happy had I been,

If Hampton Court these eyes had never seen!

Yet am I not the first mistaken maid,

By love of courts to numerous ills betrayed.

Oh, had I rather unadmired remained

In some lone isle, or distant northen land;

Where the gilt chariot never marks the way...

Pope here clearly makes fun of Belinda. As much as she pines and wishes that she had never peered in society, the long and elaborate ritual with which she prepares herself for public view in Canto 1 clearly belies this sentiment. Having spent so long making herself as beautiful as possible through the application of cosmetics, she can now hardly state that she wished she had never appeared in society. Public exposure of her beauty is what she wanted, and the rape of the lock, Pope suggests, is shown to be a natural consequence of that beauty. Belinda is ridiculous to weep about appearing society now, and thus her presentation of a nymph in "beauteous grief" shows just how foolish and ridiculous she actually is. 

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