In the "Rape of the Lock" what is the speaker's attitude toward women and which lines best express this view?

1 Answer

thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In the “Rape of the Lock,” Alexander Pope portrays women as primarily engaged in the art of courtship. The women in the poem are very concerned with their outward physical appearance, as we can see in the elaborate description of the dressing table in lines I:121-148. Rather than portraying women after death as undergoing a traditional last Judgement, they are described as becoming frivolous Sylphs if they are frivolous by nature and equally mischievous Gnomes if they are prudes. (I:50-56). In lines III:155-160, grief for a bit of hair is described as on the same level for women as death of a husband, a lapdog, or breaking a piece of china. Again, this suggests that the women (and men!) in the poem are seen as superficial and materialistic. Of course, this is a satire, and the characters symbolize the worst rather than the best, types of aristocratic females.