Question: Sketch the character of Belinda.
Belinda is the main attraction of the mock-heroic poem “The Rape of the Lock” byAlexander Pope,(1688-1744). There are several aspects of her personality. She is a bundle of contradictions and the object of satire. On the other hand, she is the goddess of beauty and charm.
Character of Belinda
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Paradigm of laziness
At the beginning of the poem, Belinda is depicted as a lazy woman who sleeps until noon. she loves to dream about her lovers and how to make them fool. Even she loves her lapdog Shock more than her lovers. The poet satirizes her for her idleness. Her dog knows when to wake her up. After waking up, she must perform her toilet. Thus, Belinda is the epitome of laziness who cannot bring minimum conjugal happiness.
In fact, Belinda is in love with her own beauty and full of vanities. The dressing table that has been called the toilet table in the poem is like a church to her. Her cosmetics are like her sacrifices and offerings to the goddess of beauty. Pope satirically calls her the goddess of beauty.
“How awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms.”
A lady who has such extreme beauty must be proud as she is not wise. So, self-pride belongs to the ladies who are like Belinda.
Luxury and artificiality
Belinda’s dressing table symbolizes her showy nature and intention for luxury. When she finally rises from bed at noon, she goes through a love letter. Soon she gets busy with her toilette. She beautifies herself with the help of her maidservant, Betty. In order to adorn her, Betty opens a box which contains sundry precious articles like shining hairpins, puffs, powders, patches, Arabian perfume, and a love letter or billet-doux. Her toilet moves forward as a heroic warrior. But of course, in this case, she is a woman who wears her clothes just to allure and entices the male.
A sweet artificial charmer
When Belinda sets out by boat on the River Thames of Hampton Court Palace, “Every eye was fixed on her alone.” Her lively looks and quick eyes attract the attention and adoration of those who see her. Her glittering raiment includes a sparkling cross which she wears on her white breast. Jews and infidels would like to kiss the cross willingly just to be able to touch her breast. Here Pope criticizes the weak believers who are mere worshipers of futile showy beauty.
Belinda is a perfect coquette. When offers are made to her, she rejects them. She ignores the advances made to her, but she does not express her disinclination in an offensive manner. To put it differently, she discourages her admirers to pay too much attention to her in such a manner that it does not hurt him but attracts him more. Thus, the moral bankruptcy of the women is ridiculed.
Belinda is a hypocrite. She pretends to be considered virtuous, but she is ready to have fun with young folk. She loves the Baron at heart but rebukes and abuses him. When the Baron tries to cut hair, the sylphs frustrate his attempt three times. In a last-ditch effort to protect her hair, Ariel accesses her mind and is shocked to find “an early lover lurking at her breast”. The strong attraction of Belinda to the Baron keeps her out of Ariel’s control which is why Ariel fails to protect her beautiful lock of hair.
When Belinda sees her lock cut off, she burns with indignation. she screams with fear and distress. Later, in the battle of the sexes, she throws a pinch of snuff or a small piece of breakfast into the Baron’s nose which makes him sneeze and fills his eyes with tears. She makes him surrender at the point of her hairpin and demands her lock back. But the lock could not be found anywhere. Through Belinda’s sufferings, Pope rebukes the vanity of fair.
Click here: all notes for “The Rape of the Lock”
Thus, Belinda is in some sense a goddess because of the personification of Beauty and representative of the fashionable aristocratic women of her age.