What does Alexander Pope's satire "The Rape of Lock" demonstrate about gender politics in eighteenth century Britain?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Although the story of the Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope is a satire, and, in accord with the conventions of the mock epic, prone to comic exaggeration, it does portray in a fairly accurate manner the gender relationships common among the upper classes of the period. First, it shows that real power was possessed mainly by men and the women acted with "soft power" if any at all. The world of women is focused on trivia -- rather than  real battles over important matters, the realm of women is that of physical ornament designed to seduce men. Women are in a sense objectified and conflicts over women and concerning women are played out against a background of patriarchy.

In many ways, the pattern of the poem echoes the Iliad, which Pope was translating and the rape (or seizing) of Helen, writ small:

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,