Would you consider Alexander Pope a misogynist after reading The Rape of the Lock?

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sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To make the claim that Alexander Pope was a misogynist based on The Rape of the Lock might not be unfounded, but you would have to take several things into consideration. First, during Pope's day, women had no rights. Feminism was a far-off idea. Pope's attitude toward women would have been considered within the norm. What Pope really detested was not so much women, though there was that undercurrent in his writing, but the pretentions of the idle rich. Pope was Catholic, which meant that he was at a disadvantage in England, both socially and financially. "The Rape of the Lock" really reflects his attitude toward upper-class young people more than just women, though he is rather unkind in his depiction of Belinda's mental acuity.  She is not a deep thinker. Pope was, after all, a satirist. If you look at his other work, particularly "The Dunciad," you can get a better idea of how he felt about people generally. Moreover,  ROTL is meant to be a mock-epic; it makes fun of the epic genre by using lofty words to tell a silly story, poking fun at both men and women.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very interesting question.  There are several elements to examine.  On one hand, an argument can be made that the manner in which Pope depicts women is superficial and a statement against women is present in such a depiction as being frivolous, superficial, and incapable of understanding reality.  Yet, at the same time, we know that Pope is writing satire, which means that he is making a statement against the practices in a social order.  This would translate into Pope making a statement against a social order that is misogynistic.  Along these lines, Pope might be depicting a social order that locks women into fashion defined roles that is being called out to be changed.  I think that there could be many lines of argumentation here.

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The Rape of the Lock

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