Belinda is the epitome of beauty in Alexander Pope’s mock epic poem The Rape of the Lock. She is the central character of the poem. The entire story revolves around her, and the title of the poem is also derived from the episode that takes place with her. The character of Belinda is portrayed in different shades and aspects, which makes it a complex character.
Belinda is born to an aristocratic family, and enjoys an elite life in the society. She can neither be considered as a pure Goddess nor a spoilt child. She owns a mixed personality that makes her character a bit difficult to evaluate. The way Pope phrases about Belinda’s beauty, it seems like he himself has been completely smitten by her. He describes her beauty utilizing terms like: The nymph, the Goddess of beauty, the rival of sun’s beams etc.
"The nymph, to the destruction of mankind Nourish'd two locks, which gracefully hung behind."
Belinda’s two locks of hair contributed the most to her beauty and charms. The clothes and makeup that she wore added a golden touch to her appeal. Her clothes are also being compared with the great epic hero Achilles. Just like Achilles killed his enemies with the use of weapons, Belinda metaphorically did the same with her bewitching costumes and alluring jewelry. She is a heart charmer, who has already captured a place in the hearts of the young men, through the use of her wit and glamour. Her killer smile strikes like a poisoned tip of the arrow in the hearts of boys and men.
“Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike
And like the sun, the shines on all alike.”
Her eyes are being compared to the bright rays of the Sol or the Sun. Pope cleverly paints the Sun as the rival of the Belle, both competing to win the attention of the people. He mocks the way Belinda flirts with others with the application of perfect satire. He even mentions about her keeping a pet. He indirectly pokes fun at the elite ladies of that age who mourn at the death of their pets but not their husbands.
"Not louder shrieks to pitying Heaven are cast when husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last."
Belinda visits the Hampton Court where she participates in the different pursuits, including the game of Ombre. In the court, one of her two locks of hair is being chopped off by The Baron as a retaliation of his defeat in the Game of Ombre. This incident is humorously referred as ‘rape’ which contributes to the title of the poem. When a woman is raped, her chastity and honor are forcefully snatched away by the attacker. Similarly, when Belinda is raped off her locks, she is utterly devastated, as she feels she has been robbed of her prestige and honour.
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Belinda is a true aristocrat of her era. The women of that era were regarded as triflers without any serious concerns in life. Their life was limited to pursuits like playing cards, having pets, sleeping till noon, attending parties, flirting with their charms etc. Pope very efficiently uses this character to mock this corrupted upper aristocratic class of the society. Belinda, who is blinded by pride and arrogance suffers here fall from grace after the incident of rape in the Hampton Court.
In the conclusion, it can be added that Belinda might be contemplated as one of the most complex female characters of the English literature. She is the perfect depiction of the wealthy class. She reflects the aimless, shallow women of that period who boasted on materialist ideologies. Even though Pope mocks her in various possible ways, he also treats her character with utmost respect. Possibly no other writer of that age could have treated such a character with so much respect like Pope did.