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How does Pope present 18th century society in Canto I-III?

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How does Pope present 18th century society in Canto I-III? Alexander Pope quite clearly conveys 18th century society as quite a trivial, yet majestic place. Pope satirises the high class society throughout Cantos I-III, outlining their conceited and lazy nature to much amusement. We are first introduced to Belinda in Canto I where Pope immediately begins to outline how trivial the high class society of the 18th century really is. Belinda is part of the high class society; therefore we should take Belinda's nature as a symbol of all the women of the high class society. This notion is enforced by the Sylph's insistence of Belinda knowing her "own importance" (Canto I) for this elevates her nature and person above all the women of her society. If the best of the society - the best being Belinda - can have "all the Vision vanish'd from thy head" by a mere "Billet-doux", it is clear that she is quite child-like and trivial in her needs and wants. Moreover, the laziness of the high class society is conveyed through Belinda's waking at midday. ...read more.


The use of white implies that she is pure and virtuous, which we must then consider the rest of the society to be, for Belinda is a representation of this society. However, Pope satirises this beauty by stating that "Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore" the "sparkling cross". Pope's exaggeration of Belinda's beauty and importance is an indicator of high class society's beauty and majestic nature, but also an attack upon them, for it seems to convey how superficial their beauty really is. The portrayal of the "advent'rous Baron" as a person of power quite clearly conveys high class society's power; for the members of the society show the society's true nature. Pope's description of the Baron is laced with forceful and devious vocabulary such as "force to ravish", "fraud or force" and "Resolv'd to win". Such descriptors clearly indicate how forceful the Baron is in attaining his prize which we are already told is Belinda's "bright locks". Although this obviously means that he wishes to attain Belinda herself, it is nonetheless an attack upon high class society's superficial likes - just as Belinda is transfixed and happy at the sight of a "Billet-doux", the Baron is happy at the sight of "bright locks"; both are as trivial as eachother. ...read more.


Pope's comparison between these two the judges and the lazy councillors of the high class society are very effective in outlining their lazy and inconsiderate nature. Although Pope insults the high class society, he also acknowledges how rich and powerful they truly her. Their power and importance is conveyed through the materials which they own. The "Alters of Japan" and "China" cups which they use and own are clear indicators of their power and wealth for these are items from all over the world. "Coffee" is also an item which is rarely seen within 18th century England. However, where there is praise, there is insult and with Pope's flattering description of high class society's wealth, he then insults wise "politicians" who "see thro' all things with his half-shut eyes". This seems to imply that the politicians are more tired than wise. This yet again conveys their inability to carry out duty, just as the counsel of "great Anna" is too preoccupied with their idle whims and the "hungry judges" are disregard their duty for their stomachs. 18th century high class society is clearly one of a trivial nature and it is this which Pope brings out and insults continuously throughout his 'Rape of the Lock. ...read more.

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