The Rape of Lock by Alexander Pope, is a mock-heroic narrative poem based on a character named Belinda during the Restoration period. During this poem Belinda has to overcome the struggles of being a woman in this society. But just because she is the main character does not mean she is the only focus of the story. What about the character Clarissa? Clarissa was the character made out to be the the evil mastermind behind the cutting of Belinda’s hair. Clairissa was immediately frowned upon because of her jealous actions. She has then been labeled “a bully” or “the mean girl” throughout the entire poem. But her famous “speech” speaks truth and somewhat redeems her in the end. Clarissa, has evil flaws that sometimes get the best of her. But Clarissa is real, when it comes to how women should be viewed in society. Clarissa is right, when it comes to her claim that women should be valued on their personalities and intelligence rather than their beauty.
So lets break this down, Clarissa who is set up from the beginning to look like the bully, all because her jealousy and personal views. Her envious emotions cause her to give the scissors away and cut Belinda’s hair. But us as women should be able to somewhat understand this. Belinda is that girl that cares all about her looks and is not really a nice person, yet all the boys want her. We all know a girl like this, and we all ask why? Yes, we may do it in our heads and never go out of our way to chop their hair off but we can not lie, we have thought about something along those lines before. It is human nature to be envious, and to form ones own opinions about things and others. In the beginning of her speech Clairssa states “the pitying Audience melt in Tears,But Fate and Jove had stopp’d the Baron’s Ears.In vain Thalestris with Reproach assails, For who can move when fair Belinda fails?” (Pope 86). Which is her acknowledging that the entire crowed was upset when Belinda’s hair was cut. The fact that a cutting of hair can cause such alarm to an entire party says a lot about society, because of how much beauty was valued at this time. Now what if a woman tripped and fell in the party, one who was not as pretty and not as pursued as Belinda. Would the crowd still have been shocked or concerned as much as they were about Belinda’s hair? Most likely not. Clarissa is calling into question why is beauty valued so high and why is personality and intellgence not.
This speech not only is it relevant for back then but it is also relevant for now in the year 2017. In her speech she is saying that looks fade, the make up will only cover up so much for so long. Hair will turn grey and stop growing as much. The wrinkles will start to find their way all over the body and one’s perfect figure will not be an hour glass shape forever. But personality, soul and good sense of humor does last. Which is what she means when she says: “But since, alas! frail Beauty must decay,Curl’d or uncurl’d, since Locks will turn to grey”.(86) When someone only relies on their looks and their figure than what else will they be able to fall back on when they get older? She also explains that a woman who has brains and good social skills will go farther and succeed more than one whose only focus is on beauty. Which is what she means when she says “And trust me, Dear! good Humour can prevail,When Airs, and Flights, and Screams, and Scolding fail.”() Because once people get married, and become older the beauty will start to disappear and if one does not have a good personality or soul what will make the husband or wife love them and stick around. When she says “screams and scolding fail”(86). it is Clarissa’s way of saying that by fighting to try and keep a significant other around because looks have faded will not work. If a person is beautiful on the inside they will never have to worry about anyone leaving or lose interest in them.
This entire section of the poem connects to the body shamming problem we are facing today. It seems that even during the Restoration period, women have been taught to think all that matters is how beautiful and attractive one is. This is quoted in Clarissa’s speech when she asks “Say, why are Beauties prais’d and honour’d most,The wise Man’s Passion, and the vain Man’s Toast?”(86). This quote is asking why does beauty image matter so much. Is it because it is what the men can “toast to” or what the “men value”. Because of this absurd idea of beauty women have been hating on themselves since the beginning. Now a days it is not about how high or curly your hair is, it is more about the unrealistic requirements of what ones figure should look like. It is like its been programmed in girls minds dated all the way back to our great great great grandmothers that us as women should always doubt what we look like. But Clarissa in this story is saying that women should not be judged upon their looks. She is saying that women should be measured on their intelligence, or their sense of humor or their soul.
Now this is not justifying what Clarissa did to Belinda’s hair, because Clarissa did let her jealousy take over her. Because of her action against Belinda it seems that it may contradict what Clarissa says at the end in her speech because it was not “lady like”. But Clarissa is not a monster or the one who should be disliked the most. She was real. So to completely exclude Clarissa and categorize her as “bad” means that every person who does so is hypocritical. We have all felt the way Clarissa has, where we do not feel good enough and wonder what that other person has that we do not. We look at celebrities on magazines and then look in the mirror, and we frown or cry or say hurtful things to what we see. If anything we should be praising Clarissa. Because Clarissa is supporting all the women who have not been the most beautiful or the most popular. She explains this in the last sentence of her speech when she says “Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll;Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.”(86) This quote means that though someone who is considered attractive may catch the eyes of others. Only someones good personality can catch peoples hearts.
This part of the poem seems to raise awareness of how women should be viewed. Clarissa gives this speech that seems so raw and truthful, yet she is looked at as rotten and a women who does not deserve applause. It seems that during this time women were not valued for being smart or having a good sense of humor and the same can be said for today. This part of the poem said by Clarissa, brings up very controversial issues about women shaming, and how beauty should not define a person.
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