Battle of the Sexes: Debate on Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock
What follows are the two opposing propositions for the debate that we will have on Alexander Pope’s famous poem The Rape of the Lock. You will first write a 250-word response on the topic before class and then defend one or the other of the two contentions during class. As you re-read the poem and write your response, come up with as much proof as you can for your preferred proposition:
A. In this poem, Pope lampoons women, representing them as trivial, vain, materialist, licentious creatures and censuring them for the very qualities that their male-dominated culture demands of them. The men of the eighteenth century are just as culpable as the women of the eighteenth century for this obsession with beauty, if not more culpable, yet Pope blames women almost exclusively. In effect, Pope condemns those who are most victimized by this obsession with beauty, not those who are most responsible for it.
B. In this poem, Pope lampoons eighteenth-century society as whole, mocking men just as much as women, if not more so. Pope is not satirizing the purported narcissism or superficiality of women per se; rather, he is satirizing his own culture, a culture that demands beauty, consumerism, and sexual appeal from women yet nonetheless expects those women to remain icons of purity, modesty, and virginity for perpetuity. In such a way, Pope foregrounds the double standards that women face in a male-dominated culture, especially the unreasonable expectations placed on them by men.
You will be in one of five groups:
1) That which first presents the case for argument A;
2) That which first presents the case for argument B;
3) That which rebuts the second group and defends argument A once more;
4) That which rebuts the third & first groups to defend argument B once more;
5) That which decides the case, deliberating outside the hall and returning with a verdict.