Alexander Pope, at the request of his friend, John Caryll, writes the poem, The Rape of the Lock, to try to mitigate the animosity between two aristocratic families, the Petres and the Fermors; because Lord Petre playfully cuts off a lock of Miss Fermor's hair, the two families are embroiled in a bitter feud (Marlowe). Pope concurs to write the poem, but also does so with the intent "to ridicule the social vanity of his day and the importance attached to trifles" (Marlowe). Pope's use of symbolism provides a condemnation to the vanities and trite values of the aristocratic class in a gentle, fun way.
As if preparing for a battle, Pope provides a detailed description of Belinda arming herself at her dressing table in Canto 1. She applies her make-up, which is symbolic for a warrior preparing for battle. Pope writes, "From each she nicely culls with curious toil, And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring spoil" (1.132-133)and "now awful Beauty .
puts on all its arms" (1.140), which gives the reader the impression that Belinda is going to be engaged in some sort of fight that she needs preparation for, just as a soldier arms himself before going onto the battlefield (Marlowe). Furthermore, in Canto 2, Pope perpetuates the image of Belinda being appropriately armed when he treats readers to an elaborate description of her petticoat, showing it to be a type of shield:.
Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail,.
Tho' stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale;.
Form a strong line about the silver bound,.
And guard the wide circumference around. (2.119-122).
The petticoat, symbolic of a woman's chastity, provides its wearer with protection against loss of virtue, being as helpful in that regard as the shields used by great Homeric warriors such as Ajax, Aeneas, and Achilles; "With its broad circumference, it does indeed recall descriptions of heroic shields from the past" (Sena 260-261.