In The Country Wife by William Wycherley and The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope we see a lot about their reputations. During the Restoration Period, the people deeply valued their reputation but especially the woman. Their reputations seem to be more important to them than most things, including their virginity, and sometimes their family. The women care a great deal about their looks and what people will think of them. In these two pieces in literature we see it very clearly how important these things are to them. Not all of the characters in these pieces feel this way, but predominately this is the case.
In The Country Wife woman are seen as sexual objects, they have no individual thoughts. The men are superior and the woman are just there for the men. The men will only marry woman so they can show them off and build their own reputation or they do not marry at all. “Pinchwife: ‘Tis my maxim. He’s a Fool that marries, but he’s greater that does not marry a Fool. What is wit in a Wife good for but not to make a Man a Cuckold?’” (Wycherley, pg. 7). Wycherley is portraying woman as someone who will eventually cheat. A man wants a “dumb” woman because the smart ones will find someone better. Instead of the men wanting a smart woman to be able to brag about, they would rather just walk around with them on their arms to build their ego.
Wycherley has the characters in The Country Wife use their reputation for their own power. Because they need to keep their reputation they become very sneaky. They become sneaky mostly when it comes to adultery. This is interesting to me because instead of not cheating on their husbands, they just make sure no one knows. They don’t care about hurting their loved ones just making sure no one knows they are doing so. The men are so frightened over the thought of being cheated on, because they don’t want other men to look at them rather than their loves sleeping with someone else. Wycherley uses the word Cuckold, which is a man who has been cheated on, many times and shows the fear that the men have of it. “Pinchwife: . . . A Cuckold is a kind of a wild Beast.” (Wycherley, pg. 65), they are disgusted in them and think the man is lesser.
In The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, Belinda’s reputation is something that she was trying so hard to keep in tact, but unfortunately couldn’t. Throughout this piece Pope demonstrates how woman exaggerate and make small events into something larger. He does in the letter to Mrs. Arabella Fermor in the beginning and throughout the story as well. He says, “Let an Action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost Importance” (Pope, pg.69). According to Pope, it is the end of the world then things go wrong in a woman’s life. He throws digs at woman throughout the whole piece, whether it be about their reputation and or beauty. Pope states a very negative view of woman’s problems, like their issues are less than a mans. Woman at this time didn’t have much rights, so they were looked at as inferior to men. “Or some frail China jar receive a Flaw, / Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade, / Forget her Pray’rs, or miss a Masquerade, / Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball” (Pope, pg 76), he is saying that these little things would be blown up into a major crisis. The woman would not want to be seen out or have people know if these things were to happen to them. But then again who would, everyone is just trying to be liked in society, then and now. But again, he is try to throw subtle digs at woman.
The reputations that the woman of The Rape of the Lock is different from The Country Wife because they care more about their looks. Pope makes it so that Belinda would rather have sex with someone than have her hair be cut. She wanted Baron to sleep with her because less people would know of that rather than have her lock cut off.
In both of these pieces the importance of the character’s reputations was clearly stated, in different ways. The importance of reputation is still very present in today’s society and literature. But the emphasis of it during the Restoration period is much larger.
Johnathan Swift wrote a poem The Lady’s Dressing Room, where he exposed woman for being human. I thought this was interesting to read after reading The Rape of the Lock, because I believe it goes hand and hand. In The Rape of a Lock woman are said to over exaggerate everything, but Swift seems to over exaggerate as well. He says how disgusting woman are but they are just as disgusting as men are. Lady Mary Montague put him back in his place, but it’s the fact that he thought woman were un-human. Woman put themselves together to build their reputation, they put all that makeup on to make themselves look better in the eyes of others. This is also still very present in today’s society; women are still getting themselves done up.
No one wants a bad reputation, people want to be liked by their colleagues. But to go to the extent that some of these characters go through seems far fetched. Whether people want a good reputation for business or just for the people in their lives it is very important. During the restoration it seems critical to their lively-hood to have. Even in the higher power if someone had a bad reputation then others would follow that rather than create their own idea of them. both men and woman want good reputations, but in these works during the restoration period it seems like in some instances the writers are making it seem like it woman who care so much.
Wycherley, William. The Country Wife., 2013.
Pope, Alexander. The Rape Of The Lock.,