Character sketch of Belinda is outstanding portrait by Alexander Pope in The rape of the lock.Whenever we study most of the literary works of the great English dramatists, novelists and poets such as William Shakespeare, George Eliot, Fielding, Popem, etc., we come to know that these above mentioned writers had also presented female characters at the level of great heroines. Shakespeare’s Ophillia, Cordelia, Emillia, Caleopetra; George Eliot’s Maggi; Fielding’s Pameila and Pope’s Belinda have their own sublime and unique place in the literary works of English Literature. AQ Academy is presented Belinda character analysis here.
Characterization is not the strong point of a mock-heroic poem like The Rape of the Lock. There are many other characters in this mater-piece of the Pope. Among all the characters, Belinda is the one who is the central character in the poem and all the other characters and supernatural agents are directly and indirectly linked with her.
There is no doubt in saying that she is the most famous character in Pope’s poetry. On the one hand, she is a bundle of contradictions and on the other hand, she is the goddess of satire. At one place, she is the goddess of beauty and charm and at another place, she is the representative of the aristocratic society. It is through the medium of her character that the poet describes the flippancy and depravity of the 18th century English society.
A deep and careful analysis of the poem shows that Pope throws light on her routine in detail because she is an ideal dream girl of Pope. Pope presents her character in such a manner that all her positive and negative traits or qualities become clear and vivid before our eyes. She loves lap dogs more than her lovers. She is very idle in her daily routine works. After waking up, the very first duty she used to perform was that of her toilet. She was very fond of having all the latest articles of beautification such as powder, paint, jewellery boxes, different bangles, colourful ear-droops, costly necklaces, etc. on her dressing tables.
Most of the time of her one day routine life was consumed in using different kinds of combs, perfumes and cosmetics. That’s why, Pope calls her the goddess of beauty because she is in love with her own beauty. There had been appointed a special maid servant — named as Betty for her help in her toilet. Apart from her maid servant, there were a number of Sylphs to perform various duties, assigned to them. In other words, we can say that her character is due to the assistance of the supernatural creatures. Though the Pope considers Belinda as an embodiment of contradictions yet he attributes divinity to Belinda’s character. She is an incarnation of the goddess of beauty.
At some other occasions, Pope compares Belinda as a rival of the sun and he describes her more brighter than the sun. She could even eclipse the sun by bringing joy in the world of fashion.
Pope describes her in a very beautiful and charmful manner in the poem when he utters:
“Belinda smiled and all the world was gay,”
Pope describes her physical beauty in its full colours. Pope emphasizes on her physical charms, namely sparkling cross and white breast. After watching the full charms of physical beauty of Belinda, most of the Christians and infidels wished to kiss the cross just to be able to touch her breast. Outwardly, she is an embodiment of grace and sweetness which even cover up her inward flirtation and faults. Pope rightly describes her faults in the following lines:
‘If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you’ll forget all.”.
There are always two beautifully curled locks of hair on her neck which attract the attention of young lovers always because these locks are always meant to capture the hearts of youngmen. There would be no young men who escaped from that great seduction of the locks of Belinda’s hair. She used to visit Hampton court where she used to play cards with lords of the country which was nothing but the game of flirtation. The young lovers were prepared to lose and surrender their hearts to this fair maid. In this way, she got an extraordinary popularity and fame among the young folk. This increased her self-importance and significance and stirred up her pride. As it had already been stated that Pope presented Belinda as an embodiment of contradictions because Belinda was what she was not. She deceived others as she deceived herself.
Apparently, she wanted to be worshiped as a divine creature and also wished to be considered virtuous but inwardly she wanted to have fun with the young folk all the time. Outwardly, she rebuked and abused the baren but inwardly she had great love for the baren. Ariel got too annoyed and gave up his duties of guarding her virtues when he discovered her hypocrisy and paradoxical nature. On the one hand, she is a flirt but on the other hand, she wanted to be worshipped as a queen of virtue. In brief, we can say that all her anger is intended only to deceive others into thinking that she is a paragon of honour and esteem. Belinda was always conscious or mindful of her virtues, though she would not care if she lost her virginity in some secret love affairs. In addition to this, she is very mindful and caring about her reputation; about her morals. She always wanted to remain in the company of young people and wanted to be admired by them. Though on the one hand, she wanted to have a good time with men yet on the other hand, she would not like to be called cheap or frivolous but only as goddess of beauty and virtue.
Among all the other heroines of English Literature. Belinda had been the favourite heroine of Pope. After assigning extravagant words of beauty, virtue and honour to Belinda; it seems that the Pope has been enamoured with his own creation. The reason being, he describes her in superlatives: the goddess, the nymph, the fair, the rival of the sun’s beams. In this way, it seems that the Pope pays homage to this beautiful character who resembles Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. Like her, she is a perfection of beauty and the winner of men of her age She remains the winner and conqueror of Hampton-court and knows how to win the game of Ombre. She knocks down two knights at the table of cards. Her protest against the attack of Lord Peter means to put a premium on her chastity and virtue.
Here, it is very worthy to note that Pope is not blind to her weaknesses, whims, shortcomings and faults. In fact, she is the goddess of sex who knows all the tricks of the sex games. Belinda’s reaction to the loss of her lock is quite natural. It is a violation of hero-ship and rules of chivalry and courtship. There is no doubt in saying that the Pope has presented Belinda as a personality that is full of amazing experiences. He has presented her in such a manner that we become able only after studying her character that she is really a representative of her age. Pope depicts the fashionable trends, tastes and crazes of aristocratic women of her age through her character. In other simple words, we can say that she is a social butterfly who meets different persons and personalities through the medium of attending social functions, marriages and funerals.
Mark Pattison who has rightly called Pope as the true representatives of his age and Belinda is an object of Pope’s chivalrous devotion of women. Some critics have very strongly and forcefully criticised Pope’s attitude towards Belinda and find some certain faults in it. But their criticism does not have solid arguments and so, it cannot be sustained because the Pope only reflects the eighteenth century view of women of high society. Moreover, the poem is written in mock-heroic vein and for this, any commonplace girl can be suited as a heroine of the mock-heroic poem. Belinda cannot be any other than a mock-heroic.
It is very obvious that the poet wrote this poem in a playful mood and his light satire should not be taken seriously. It is observed in most of the literary works that reflection or personal glimpses of one writer are commonly seen in his or her literary compositions. Same is the case with Pope’ here, being a rejected lover, he felt himself insulted and therefore bore a grudge against the fair sex. It is also stated rightly that he expresses his personal feelings in the “Rape of the Lock“; against the aristocratic women of his age in general. Belinda, being an embodiment of comic spirit; it is found a special charm that a fair and fashionable woman brings society together with all her pride and vanity. Her fickle nature is very beautifully and vividly contrasted with her bright appearance.
Her remarkable qualities of lack of discrimination and her failure to understand the true value of things compel Pope to present her quite an amusing and trivial. Pope shows her heart as a “moving toy – shop” where images follow images without any distinction and nothing serious has any place. The rape of her lock and then her reaction to it symbolically testify to the frail nature of her fashionable society, where sexual behaviour is subject of society for certain conventional standards: “The Rape of the Lock” is a poem in which, rare examples of comparison are found because it is very rare in other English literary works that a writer is comparing or equating virginity with China wares and woman’s honour to a “new brocade and husband with lap-dogs”.
Having all the above analysis of discussion in mind, we can say openly, forcefully and vividly in the conclusion that among all the prominent heroines of English Literature, Belinda is a complex character. There is no single term or formula enough to cover up her qualities. There is no doubt in saying that she is a true representative of the aristocratic women of the 18th century and it is through her character that we come to know about the shallowness, aimlessness and purposelessness of the routine of women of the upper-class of the Pope’s age.
She is more than a type because she has her own personality and above all she is remarked by her own traits, characteristics, whims and fancies of her personality. In the very beginning of the poem, we see that Pope firstly describes her a goddess and in the end a heavenly being All this shows Pope’s own loveful attitude towards a fair-sex. Pope worshiped beauty and had an over-riding respect for a girl of charms Lastly, what kind of attribution of lofty and sublime words has Pope given to her dream girl-Belinda in his poem of the “Rape of the Lock“, no other writer had given such kind of homage, respect and honour to his heroine.