The Rape of the Lock

Published 02 Oct 2017

The most important problem that 18th century faced was the posing and pretension in elite circles of society. This problem led this social class to another problem i.e. indulgence useless activities and its concerns about trifling matters. Both these problems have been addressed masterfully by Alexander Pope in The Rape of the Lock, Henry Fielding in Joseph Andrew and Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels through various thematic expressions. Pope satirizes the ‘beau-monde’ and ridicules the excessive snobbery. Belinda’s (the protaginist of the poem) society is representative English upper class of the time. Fielding satirises some of the more commonly found social follies and foibles in the contemporary society. He found that man entertained very false notions of social respectability and his vanity and egoism led him to many ridiculous situations.

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The Rape of the Lock and Jospeh Andrews take into account the socio-cultural shasllowness, irresponsibility, extranagance and vanity and expopse it using the tools of irony and satire. This specimen of English aristocracy resented in these works invest heavily on posing and pretensions. Pope’s description of Belinda’s bedroom and her spending of time at beutifying herself is only a single example. Throwing expensive partiers in another example of this snobbery. This snobbery leads these members of the soviety to fuss over trivial matters. The feud over the stealth of Belinda’s hair is a mnaifestation of this social atitude. Pope takes into account another social problem i.e. socalled social morality. He makes fun of this social morality that cares too much for the stelth of a lock but who does folow the cherished ideals of equality, fraternity and democracy. This so-called social morality forces its member to wage a war for the irespect shown to a owmen but it does not compel its aritiocratic members to care for the poor and their needs. He shows a vast chasm between the so-called morality and the gory reality of the contemporary english society.

There was blatant display of hypocrisy around almost everywhere. Prevailing notions about social respectability do not correspond to their general behaviour. So they took recourse to posing and pretension, making themselves guilty of duplicity of conduct. Lady Booby is manifested as genteel and respectable outwardly. It would be extremely degrading for her to express her love to hr footman. But she can at-least lean on his arm when she is tired (and this happen almost every minute) and there is no harm in taking him by the hand while getting out of her coach and pressing it very hard for fear of stumbling. Jonathan Swift also satirizes the human follies. He often felt amused at the incongruities and inconsistencies evident in the actions of the people and mocks them satirically to expose the vanity and egoism in a subtle but mild way.

Irony and satire are closely related literary terms. Fielding, Pope and Swift were avowedly writing to hold the mirror up to human folly. As such, it was inevitable that thier humour should involve satire and irony. But most of the times, thier satire is mild and amusing rather than vituperative and bitter. Swift does not restrict himself to the mild and placid type of satire but it becomes ruthless due to the demands of the situation. Same is the case with Fielding’s satire. This transformation from mild satire to harsh satire is due to fact that social egoism manifested in the first example is limited to sentiments and one’s own psychological make-up whereas in the second example, it turns out to be malignant and hateful.

Additionally, their satire is achieved through exposure of the follies and foibles and never through castigation. Satirical humour is directed toward follies and social classes and never toward a particular individual. If a particular character is mocked, he was taken as a representative of that class.

Work Cited

  • Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock. 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  • Bloom, Harold. 1987. Henry Fielding. New York: Chelsea House Publishers.

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