Alexander Pope as a Satirist is acknowledged that the true satirist points out the follies, absurdities, foibles, shortcomings, weaknesses, vices etc. of the people in a very humorous way in order to reform them. There is no malice, anger and enmity in the behaviour of a satirist in dealing with the ways of life of the people. There is no doubt in saying that “The Rape of the Lock” is a cock tale of threats and inducements, for the object, it has in its view a reformation of men and women and manners.
A true satire ends in its amendments of vices by correcting them. Most of the people agree that satire is a criticism of life because it exposes the vices of the ways of life of people. As for as the matter of Pope is concerned in The Rape of the Lock, we see that he has succeeded in presenting almost all the social aspects of his times in a satirical vein. From the very beginning of his career of writing, Pope was much interested in the social aspects of daily routine life of his age which had been badly affected by the fashionable trends of life.
A deep and careful study of this poem clearly and openly shows that there had been no other writer in the whole English Literature who had so vividly and beautifully reflected the spirit of his day. There is no doubt in saying that it was Pope’s success in “The Rape of the Lock” that he drew the true picture of the society of his times so admirably well and in such a fine satirical vein. As Shakespeare had been regarded and acknowledged a poet of image, he dealt with the passions, emotions and innate motives of man successfully and beautifully. Same is the truth with the Pope who had been rightly regarded and appreciated for his quality of the ‘Poet of Society’.
The Pope dealt with the human trends of life in the society and gave a graphic picture of the social aspects of life. Though apparently the aristocratic classes had progressed a lot in different fields of life yet they were completely deprived of the passions of sincerity, faithfulness and loyalty. Their manners of social life were highly artificial. Though outwardly men addressed ladies in a gallant tone, yet they had a very poor estimation of them. We also come to know that the ladies also led a most artificial life and always behaved in such a manner as if their man job was to attract and ensure men.
In Pope’s time, there was no lackage of finding proper employments and diversion for the young people you they used to live idle and free and preferred in indulging in the useless and aimless activities such as keeping and taming the lapdogs, teasing the girls, having life cards games with opposite sex, etc. The toilet was their great scene of business and the right adjustment of their hair was the principal employment of their lives. All this is very beautifully described by the poet:
“And now, unveiled, ilie toilet stands display’d.
Eath silver vase in mystic order laid
First, roled in white, the numph intent adores,
With head uncovered the cosmetic powers,
A heavenly image in the glass appears.
To that she lends, to that her eyes she rears”.
The main troublesome but very important work of the morning was to sort out the suit of Tibands for the ladies of the aristocratic families. If they had to visit a toy shop then they became so exhausted and fatigued for the rest of the whole day. Their more serious occupations are sewing and embroidery and their greatest drudgery (dullness) was in the preparation and presentations of jelly and sweetmeats.
The main character of the poem is Belinda whom the Pope considers as the chief priestess, Belinda used to worship at the shrine of beauty so keenly as she quite naturally worship herself. The poet compares Belinda to the sun and in this comparison, the suggestion is that the sun recognizes Belinda a rival and fears her. The master ship of Pope is seen in following lines, when he utters:
“So through white curtains shot a timorous ray,
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day”.
In other simple words, we can say that her eyes are too fatalistic for the sun to eclipse the bright day. Belinda is like the sun, because her bright eyes also dominate over her special world.
“Brigh as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And like the sun, they shine on all alike.”
Pope means to say that her looks are for all as the sun shoots its rays for all. At some stages in the poem, we see that Pope becomes double edged because on the one hand, Pope celebrates the artificial world of 18th century social convention and on the other hand, he satirizes it. The lock of hair is to this world is like what the actual lady is to the real world. After the rape of her lock, Belinda became more popular and was started being cherished among the folk of the fashionable world.
Pope displays the full trends,ambitions and tastes of the fashionable world in their most gorgeous manners. The emptiness is always visible beneath the outward splendour. It is true that Pope goes on to imply that details of her toilet, her troops of admirers are set forth with universal grace and fascination and all bear the impression of vanity and vexation. Their hearts are of toy-shops and they give more importance to the worldly things than the feelings and emotions of human beings. The little with them is great and the great little.
In “The Rape of the Lock”, Pope has very truly caught and fixed the true atmosphere and spirit of his age that we can say that no other English writer had given or presented the true expression of the social and moral characteristics of literary tastes of his own age.
There are some prominent critics who argue that Pope’s masterpiece lacks the depth, scope and significance of the great work of Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe because the subject matter of the poem is of low level.
To sum up this above mentioned discussion, we can say that the sum and substance of the above discussion is that “The Rape of the Lock” is not only a mock-heroic poem but it is also a great social satire of the times. The poet has very beautifully and vividly satirized the fops and the fashionable ladies of his times and it is rightly considered as the most powerful satire against feminine frivolity. The amorous intrigues idea prattling, fashions and dresses of women have been mercilessly satirized by the Pope in the poem. Pope does not only laugh at feminine frivolities but satirize them in order to cure them. Pope, therefore, is certainly a great satirist and a great moralist who has remained true to his oft-quoted motto; “The proper study of mankind is man”.