Character Sketch of Belinda | The Rape of the Lock

 Character Sketch of Belinda in The Rape of the Lock

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction : Belinda
 2. Introduction Alexander Pope
 3. Character Sketch of Belinda
    3.1 Exquisite Beauty
    3.2 Un-interested in matrimony
    3.3 Belinda : A Coquette
    3.4 Belinda and the Sylphs
    3.5 Belinda's Pride

Introduction : Belinda 

Belinda is a complex and controversial character since the publication of the poem The Rape of the Lock itself. She is a beautiful young maiden. Ariel, the airy Spirit is the protector of Belinda's virtue. He already reminds her of her being virgin and charming beauty in her dream. But Belinda is a bit slippery. She goes to court Hampton where her lock of hair is shipped off. Then she laments in remorse.

Belinda has been presented in various shades and different roles. Where at one place Pope praises Belinda's unparalleled beauty at other times he makes  satirical and ironical comments as well.  Some critics consider her treatment fair while others as unfair. 

The Rape of the Lock
Author Alexander Pope
Protagonist Belinda
Character Sketch of Belinda | The Rape of the Lock

Published May 1712
Genre Mock epic
Form Poem
Setting London
Original Language English
Rhetorical Device Heroic couplet

Introduction : Alexander Pope :-

Alexander Pope is the greatest poet of the neo- classical age.This age is marked by extensive use of satire. In the realm of mock epic, Pope enjoys the same position and prestige as Milton enjoys in the Epic proper. The Rape of the lock is his finest social satire on England. It is the finest mock epic poem of English Literature. The Rape of the lock has won Pope more admirers than any his other poem.

Alexander Pope
Profile
The Rape of the Lock as a social satire
Born 21 may 1688, London
Died 30 may 1744, UK
Era Augustan, 18th century
Profession Poet, writer, translator
Genre Poetry, translations, Literary Criticism
Notable works The Dunciad, The Rape of the Lock, an essay on criticism

Character Sketch of Belinda's Character

Now, let's discuss the characteristics of Belinda's character, which could be discussed under following heads :

   1. Exquisite Beauty
    2. Un-interested in matrimony
    3. Belinda : A Coquette
    4. Belinda and the Sylphs
    5. Belinda's Pride

Characteristics of Belinda's character in The Rape of the Lock :

1. Exquisite Beauty :

Belinda is the central character around whom the whole poem of The Rape of the Lock revolves. She is an extremely beautiful maiden, more beautiful than any other female character of the poem. Pope got the inspiration from real-life Arabella Fermor and transformed her into Belinda. She is a paragon of female charm, whose name is Latin for "lovely to behold." Pope constantly compared her to the sun for her bright beauty. In the opinion of the poet the sun is a rival of her shining charm and gleams:

Sol, through white curtains shot a timorous ray, 
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day.

Further, Belinda's charm is compared to sun. Pope portrays Belinda's charming gaze through her eyes equivalent to the glare of sun :

Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.

Belinda's beauty is enhanced by the curls that she wear :

This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind
In equal curls, and well conspired to deck,
With shining ringlets the smooth ivory neck.

Though Belinda is extremely beautiful, her sole aim of life seems to be to make herself even more beautiful. That is why she spends hours before her dressing table :

Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face : 
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, 
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.

2. Belinda un-interested in Matrimony :

Belinda is an exquisite Beauty. She is a young maiden.  There is no doubt that a girl of Belinda's age and charms must try to get married before it is too late-before she eclipses as a beauty. However, Belinda is not interested in marriage. She is not yet prepared to fix her affections on one man alone. Pope's comments here also seems satirical but as he tells us :

Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends. 
And, like the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, 
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.

Belinda does not aspire to find a groom. She is not like the other run-of-the day girls whose only aim is to seek alliance in marriage.

3. Belinda a Coquette :

Belinda is a flirtatious woman. In fact, she is not a bride-to-be but a coquette par excellence. According to MerriamWebster's Collegiate Dictionary, a coquette is "a woman who endeavours without sincere affection to gain the attention and admiration of men."

As we have already talked about her dis-interest in marriage. She does not want to indulge herself in any affectionate long term marriage like alliance but wants to gain the attention of every men. She is a woman who  wants to win hearts and throw them away, regarding nothing but the triumph. Belinda does all this and spend hours before mirror only to get the praise and admiration of her beauty.
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Addison satirically speaks about a coquette thus :
An Idol who is wholly taken up in the admiring of her person. You see in every posture of her body, air of her face, and motion of her eyes, that it is her business and employment to gain Adorers. 

It seems that Addison wrote this description of a coquette after reading The Rape of the Lock. She also adores her person and is conscious of her physical charms and attraction :

First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores, 
With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers. 
A heavenly image in the glass appears, 
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears.

Then we find Belinda moving in public surrounded by her worshippers, the beaus and lords, who adore her:

Thus, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames. 
Fair nymph and well-dress'd youths around her shone, 
But every eye was fix'd on her alone.

4. Belinda and the Sylphs :

Belinda is the heroine of the poem The Rape of the Lock and the sylphs are her guiding spirits. Pope has attempted to establish many similarities between the two. The sylphs can be appreciated as the extension of the Character of Belinda. There is hardly any difference between Belinda and Ariel, the chief sylph that looks after her welfare. Ariel is also a deceased and metamorphosed coquette :

For when the Fair in all their Pride expire, 
To their first Elements their Souls retire... 
The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome, 
In search of Mischief still on earth to roam. 
The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair 
And sort and flutter in the Fields of Air.

These sylphs are the protector of the virtuous girls who are 'fair and chaste.' Belinda's behaviour is in consonance with the behaviour of her attendant spirits. She offers temptation to young men but keeps away from any ostensible harm. 

5. Belinda's Pride :

Another prominent characteristic of Belinda is her over-bearing pride, which is made up of self-conceit and self-assertion. Ariel reminds her of her pride, he exhorts her to importance in society: "Fairest of mortals.... Hear and believe! thy own importance know." The ritual at Belinda's dressing table clearly demonstrates her bloated pride. In the words of Hugo M. Richards, "In keeping with her honour, Belinda's religion is primarily not beauty-worship, but self-worship. She is her own 'goddess'-precisely the 'woman who one worships or devoutly admires'." 

Belinda's routine time spending at dressing table has been compared to religious rituals. Her cosmetic routines are called 'sacred rites'. For Belinda to be beautiful is to be blessed, and there is no doubt that she feels that she is blessed. Naturally enough, Belinda's bedroom acquires all the accourtments of a chapel.

Thus, we find Belinda a beautiful woman lost in her self centred pride and admiration. And it is this that adds charm and piquancy to the character of Belinda, the heroine of the poem, The Rape of the Lock. This narcissistic women thinks that she is more than human-a deity-and this pride leads her towards her ultimate doom.


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