Arguments for and against misogyny in Pope's `An epistle to a lady: of the characters of women'

Misogyny in Pope's 'An Epistle to a Lady...':

-The poem is meant to be read as a comparison. All of the other women Pope describes in the poem are meant to be compared with the portrait of Martha Blount as the ideal women, however, Pope's description of Blount is anything but ideal. Blount is described as private, domestic & submissive. This implies that if a woman does not embody these qualities, she is not ideal. He also says that the gods shine on Blount because she has Pope as a friend. This indicates to the reader that having the affection of a man is a quality that the ideal woman cannot do without.

-Blount is also described as a 'softer man' in Pope's 'An Epistle to a Lady...'. She is described as being made up of both male and female qualities. By this, Pope is implying that it is because Blount is part man that she is the ideal woman. This relates to the biblical idea that woman were initially created from man (Adam's rib). This is a very misogynist idea, implying that women would not even exist if it weren't for men.

-Pope generalizes about women throughout 'An Epistle to a Lady'. He writes female characters into he expects all women to fit. At first Pope claims that all women simply want to be queen. Then he broadens his view slightly, saying that all women fit into two categories: those who want power and those who want pleasure. Pope's limited perception of women contradicts itself even within his own poem. Despite splitting all women into the two aformentioned categories, Pope's portraits of women throughout the poem are far too complicated to fit easily into either category.

-Even Martha Blount is a portrait of a woman that Pope expects some women may fit into: she is a domestic, sexless angel.

-In her poem 'from An Epistle to Mr. Pope. Occasioned by his Characters of Women', Anne Ingram, Viscountess Irwin argues that Pope does not take into consideration that women are socialized differently than men. Ingram argues that it isn't that women do not have a mind, but rather that they do not use it. She asserts that women are bred to value their beauty above all else, and not to cultivate their minds.

Arguments against Misogyny in Pope's 'An Epistle to A Lady...':

-Critic Felicity Nussbaum argues that perhaps Pope's poem is not misogynist because it establishes a stable identity of a good woman in comparison with the other terrible women depicted in the poem. However as already discussed, Blount's character is not an entirely positive portrait of a woman.

-Nussbaum also argues that because Pope and Blount travel through the poem together, the perspectives delineated in the poem are not from an entirely male perspective, and are apparently less prejudice as a result. (However, as we all know, women perpetuated stereotypes about themselves throughout the 18th century almost as much as men)

-Finally, Nussbaum argues that Pope's poem is less misogynist and more a product of the complex conventions of the eighteenth century