are there any virtues expressed in the Rape of the Lock?
Rape of the Lock is a work of art . It holds “the mirror up to nature” and simultaneously it is ‘life-enhancing’. In it, we find “a criticism of life”. Again, the style of the artist is such as “True wit in Nature to advantage dressed what it was thought, but never so well exprest”. Moreover, it comes alive through the creative imagination of Pope .
A piece of good literature only becomes appealing to us, when we discover with it ourselves. But, this discovery is not at the cost of contempt but enjoying the old wine from a new bottle.
Again, the function of the airy spirits, as per their previous earthly existence, tallys both to reality and fancy. Sylph’s prologue to the nature of airy spirits, as, -
“As now your own, our beings were of old
And once enclosed in women’s
Thence, by a soft transition, we repair
From earthly vehicles to these of air” – is relevant to Pope’s satire on women’s follies.
True literature is always “life-enhancing”. It invites things and ideas beyond our work-a-day life. Pope’s introduction of the light militia of the lower sky, and the manipulation of their activities on women like- Belinda, arrest our attention and evoke our curiosity to the denizens of cosmic world. The ideas of immortality of women’s spirits and the continuation of their past desires, - are new ones, “Think not, when women’s transient breath is fled, / That all her vanities at once are dead, / Succeeding vanities she still regards”.
. A great satirist points out the follies and the foibles of his contemporary society, but at the same time serves amusement. He thinks that the best way of attacking wickedness and foolishness, is by laughing at them. Pope perfectly does this. He could se that the moral values of the high and the higher society of his time were declining. In, “The Rape of the Lock” this is nicely suggested in the equating of puffs, powders, patches and billet-doux with Bibles. The comparison of husband with a lap-dog, toilet to an altar, the loss of ‘heart’ to a ‘neck less’, - gives us a satire on moral values. There is again, supply of good tempered amusement in the depiction of a fashionable young woman (Belinda), -
“ Weather the Nymph shall break Diana’s law
Or some frail China jar receives a Flaw;
Pope’s art of presentation of what he intends to say, and his power of translating into reality, “What art was thought but never so well-expressed”, - would never immortalized him, as a great poet. Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” has been accepted by most people, generation of critics and scholars as a permanent work of art. David Daiches opines, “…the tone of the poem is wholly original” and “the blend of burlesque, wit, humor… We find no where else in English poetry”. R.J.Rees considers this poem, “as a true master-piece of light satire”. Dr. Johnson’s praise to “The Rape of the Lock”, is –“the most airy, the most ingenious and the most delightful” of all Pope’s compositions.
And, we from the view points of seeing things art thus really are, social criticism, creative imaginations, perfect ness of diction and form, do consider, The Rape of the lock’s perpetual appeal.