Erin Hamill English 221, Paper #3 Mr. Francis Minneci November 14, 2013 Objectification of Religion in “The Rape of the Lock” Alexander Pope’s mock epic “The Rape of the Lock” creates a setting in which objects and people in real life are paralleled to a character or concrete object in the poem. To satirize the community about which he is writing about, Pope places emphasis on worldly objects rather than the value that they represent in an ideal society. By doing this, Pope is making a comment of the frivolousness of the world and the superficiality of the upper class. Pope places emphasis on religion and the objects associated with it when describing Belinda and the Sylphs that protect her. The juxtaposition of religion with material objects creates a society that is perceived as materialistic instead of one that focuses on the sanctity of religion and the place it holds in society. Throughout the poem, Pope’s writing implies an objectification of religion by placing the idea of it among material objects, which denotes the sanctity of it and puts more focus on the object rather than on religion itself. In Canto 2, Belinda is introduced to a crowd of people when she arrives at the Palace. She is described as having “every eye fixed on her alone/On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore/Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore” (Canto 2, line 6-8). He goes on to explain the beauty of her physical appearance, while brushing over the cross around her neck. It is unclear whether the people staring are appreciating the cross or her “white breast”. The passage implies that although all eyes are on her, the cross she is wearing is lost amongst her physical beauty. The cross loses significance, and ends up being only a commodity on a beautiful woman. The men and women at the Palace, representing those who are a part of high society, are depicted as shallow and vapid, as they only focus on Belinda’s beauty, rather than on what really holds a society together. Pope is commenting on how people can forget what’s really important and pass it off as insignificant when compared to a captivating material object. When Pope described the cross as being something that “Jews might kiss, and infidels adore” (8), he is commenting on the fact that the cross holds no real meaning or significance to any one specific religious group, since Jews, Catholics, and infidels alike can all appreciate it. The scene that he has depicted is one full of superficial higher-ups who place more value on the aesthetic aspect of religion rather than the true value it holds. In Canto 1, there is a strong sense of biblical references, not the least of which is Belinda herself, along with her Sylphs. Ariel, her main Sylph, acts as a guardian angel of sorts, with the intent to protect and warn Belinda of any impending event that may harm her in any way. When Belinda awakes from her dream and looks at her reflection in the mirror, she sees “a heavenly image in the glass” (Canto 1, line 125). She quickly forgets her dream when she has the opportunity to look at herself in the mirror. Belinda is conscious of her use of cosmetics, which all serve to cover up her true self and make her someone concerned with false appearances. By comparing Belinda to a “heavenly image,” Pope is drawing connections between her and an angel of sorts. Belinda, although compared to the beauty an angel, hardly represents an angel in character. Pope also uses the Sylphs to represent angels. Many of the Sylphs, however, do not guard Belinda’s safety or reputation, but rather guard her hair, her dog, and her dress. Their protectiveness over her is limited to material objects rather than her wellbeing, which is a stark contrast to how guardian angels are usually perceived. Ariel is the sole Sylph that watches over Belinda, but he gives up protecting her when he realizes that she in fact wants to be violated by the Baron. His desertion of her represents the ephemeralness of Heaven’s protection that Pope is satirizing. In Canto 5, Clarissa, one of the nymphs, wonders aloud about “why are beauties praised and honored most…Why angels called, and angel-like adored?” (Canto 5, line 9-12). The women in Pope’s play are compared to angels, but not in character, only in looks. They are constantly referred to as “heavenly”, but only while applying cosmetics. Angels represent, among other things, purity. By using so many cosmetic products, Belinda is covering up her true self and sullying her image, embodying anything but purity. By associating her with an angel, Pope is implying that the characteristics of angels lean more toward physical beauty than pure character. Pope’s comparison of religion to material objects and physical beauty serve to comment on a society more concerned with beauty and glamour than on being moral in character and worshipping God as one should. He uses Belinda and her Sylphs to embody the superficiality that the upper class is often perceived as being. By objectifying religion, Pope creates an effective satire that illustrates how religion often comes second to material objects to those who are held high in society. By juxtaposing religion with the physical features of a beautiful woman, comparing Belinda to a “heavenly angel” while covering her true self with cosmetics, and describing the Sylphs as representing a certain ephemeralness of the protection of Heaven, Pope successfully ridicules a society for expressing more concern with the materialistic aspect of society and placing its value above that of religion.