Strephon's Punishment for His Method of Reading in "The Lady's Dressing Room"
In Greek mythology, Pandora, a stunningly beautiful mortal, is created to punish man for his disobedience to Zeus, the supreme ruler of the Greek gods. When given a box that she is forbidden to open, Pandora cannot resist satisfying her curiosity about the contents of the box and opens it, releasing all evil into the world and leaving hope at the bottom of the box. Similarly, in Jonathan Swift's "The Lady's Dressing Room," Strephon's curiosity about the contents of Celia's dressing room causes him to open the door, examine all the details of the room, and interpret their reflection of the "Goddess" (3) Celia's character. He consequently releases from the image of beautiful women the evils of scabs and excrement left over from the preparations of this woman, who is a "Goddess" in his mind. Strephon is left blind to the hope in the potential beauty and life growing from this filth and excrement in Celia's beauty, only to associate women with the dressing room's odors and, likewise, to associate odors with women. Essentially, because Strephon is unable to resist his desire to discern the process behind Celia's beauty and chooses not to leave this process a mystery, Vengeance punishes him by destroying his image of women that he rightfully deserves.
Strephon's desire to reveal the mystery behind Celia's beauty causes him to search her void dressing room, invading her privacy and consequently meriting punishment. Because "Five Hours, (and who can do it less in?) by haughty Celia spent in dressing" (1-2), Strephon's curiosity gets the best of him and encourages him to find the reason for the beauty of the "Goddess" (3). While he reads, or examines, the details of the room, "No object Strephon's eye escapes" (47), and each object is filthy to him. As though he could not have enough disgust for this dressing room, "Strephon ventured to look in, resolved to go through thick and thin"...
Cited: Swift, Jonathan. "The Lady 's Dressing Room." The Poems of Jonathan Swift. Ed. Harold Williams. Oxford: Clarendon, 1958.
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