The Lady’s Dressing Room by Jonathan Swift

What Strephon and Celia found with each other, of each other and from each other – are contained in Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” to be equivocal – i. e. , nothing is worthy in either. There clearly is bias in the poem. Strephon saw Celia’s room after the lady finished dressing up and it was a mess – he immediately concluded that her beauty is just on the outside and in the inside she is an unsavory mess. The poem portrays the irony of vanity and the skin deep reality of what physical beauty is all about; of what is on the outside cannot be true for what is in the inside.

And all there is in human beings is generally limitations in the spiritual and intellectual aspects. Because of the irony of the perception of the poem and its prejudice, the presentation of the poem is brash and crude. It rationalizes the animal in man and therefore a tinge of anger is resonant in “The Lady’s Dressing Room”.

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All those observations of Strephon as to how Celia spends time to beautify herself; the time consuming and painstaking ways she uses beauty products; all the shallow reasons why Celia dresses up as she struts in high society.

Celia, and her womanhood, was totally condemned. “In Swift’s verse, fire of poetry and magnificence of imagery or language have no part. In verse as well as in prose he seeks the most simple statement, the plainest phrase and the most ordinary comparisons, and aims at conveying his meaning with the utmost clearness and force.

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” (Ball & Murray, 1929, page 1) In comparison: The woman in Belinda of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock” and the woman in Celia in “The Lady’s Dressing Room” – both are constituents of a society that is consumed with the self.

Pope worked in the poem the effect of “crossing” a woman that can ripple to unproportionate rhyme or reason. Swift just categorically lambasted the “Celia’s” of such time as simply the disfranchising members of society. Swift is tougher on the issue of the womanhood of Celia, than the way Pope illustrated the sort of whimsical reaction of Belinda. The Lady’s Dressing Room is very direct and definite about the limitations set by Celia. The Rape of the Lock was more abstract and generalized and benign.

However, the rigors that both Belinda and Celia go through in “beautifying” themselves are hyperbolically presented by both poems. The men who closely observed and interacted with these women were not portrayed as righteous nor heroic. Both the Baron and Strephon were contemptuous on Belinda and Celia, respectively. And with their thoughts and their actions they deem to pose as the barometer of what should be. The Rape of the Lock showed a particular woman, Belinda – became the basis of the general conclusions about women.

The Lady’s Dressing Room presented the overall, conclusive premise of womanhood, as particularly exemplified by Celia. From Belinda being the particular, the universality of womanhood was defined. From the generality of womanhood, the rationalization of the particularness of Celia came about. As a satire on women, the poems of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope had their purpose. Take it or leave it, readers can truly learn a lot from them

Works Cited

  1. “The Story Behind the Poem”. The Rape of the Lock Home Page. 18 Feb 1997

Cite this page

The Lady’s Dressing Room by Jonathan Swift. (2017, May 08). Retrieved from

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