Character Analysis of Belinda in The Rape of the Lock

Belinda represents the fashionable and aristocratic ladies of the time. She is a woman of superb beauty and charm. Early in the poem, she is compared to the sun (also at the beginning of the Canto II). The brightness of her eyes surpasses the brightness of the sun. The poet invests her almost with divine beauty. Beside this admiration, she has many denunciating qualities in her character.

Except being a beauty the faults of Belinda are many. The poet fully reveals to us her petty pleasure-seeking nature. She suffers from all the vanities, laziness, follies and moral scruple of the aristocratic ladies of her time. She is treated as an object of mockery, ridicule, and even condemnation because of her shallowness, superficiality, and lack of any intellectual interest or moral elevation in her life. The lady sleeps till the hour of twelve in the day. Her dog licks her and she gets up every day from her all prophesied purity. Belinda is proud to be secretly in love with the Baron just after opening her eyes; first thought is about love letter which has been addressed to her. Next, she gets ready for her toilet and her day begins at noon. The toilet-table is like a church to her. She takes help of “cosmetic power” and her maid-servant Betty assists her in her sacred ceremony of the toilet. These show her superficial nature and lack moral awareness.

Her rendezvous is the Hampton Court where the fashionable girls and men of upper-class society gather. But Belinda is in the limelight, attracts attention and love. Gossip, cards, coffee-drinking occupy much of Belinda’s time in the day. She does not seem to have any intellectual interest. Spiritual shallowness and incapacity for moral awareness are great in her. She has transformed all spiritual exercise and emblems into a coquette. Self-display and self-adoration the used as her ornaments.

After cutting off her lock, the lamentation of Belinda again brings out the shallowness and superficiality of her mind because she says that she would not have been so hurt if some after hair except her golden-curl would have been stolen.

Pope attributes divinity to Belinda’s character. She is an incarnation of the goddesses of beauty. She is brighter than the sun. She eclipses the sun by bringing joy and gaiety into the world of fashion. As the poet says-

“Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay

Hurt to cause pain to, to wound (mentally), to damage.”

Pope has a mixed and complicated attitude towards Belinda. He admires her but does not spare to criticise her. The paradoxical nature of Pope’s attitude is intimately related to the paradox of Belinda’s situation. Although pope has ridiculed many of Belinda’s manners, he did not have her to be judged as a bad woman.

There is no doubt that Belinda has a number of “fall.” This fall consists in her manner, of life. Yet pope presents her in an agreeable form and we are led to forget her frivolities or morality. But the actual aspiration is laid on the very society of which she is the product. She is the maiden through whom Pope expresses his dislike of the society which was given to mirth and merriment at any cost.

Consider Swift's Gulliver’s Travels as a Satire
Treatment of Nature in Sons and Lovers


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