The Lady's Dressing Room By Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift’s scatological poem, The Lady’s Dressing Room, is used to satirise both women’s vain attempts to match an ideal image and men’s expectation that the illusion of perfection is real, both in public and in private. Strephon is a vehicle used in order to investigate and demystify Celia’s space, that is to say, to uncover the mystery behind female beauty.
The female body is violated by the male figure, thus highlighting the key theme of intrusion. This is highlighted through Swift’s choice of vocabulary and the image of Strephon who ‘stole in, and took a strict Survey’ (Swift 7) of Celia’s dressing room. Both the words, ‘stole’ and ‘took’, explicitly suggest that he is stealing from her, and what he is stealing is Celia’s privacy. The sibilance here stresses Strephon’s determination and stealthy nature in order to uncover what it is that makes Celia so beautiful. Wendy Weise describes Swift’s poem as moving “from the inside out—from Strephon’s venture into private space to his eruption into public speech” (709), illustrating how his movement into her dressing room brings her private secrets out into public knowledge. As Celia is used …show more content…

This is established by the use of ‘Strephon’ (Swift 5), a traditional name for a pastoral lover, an example of which can be found in Sidney’s Arcadia. However, the combination of this pastoral name and the fact that he is searching through his mistress’ dressing room present an unromanticised depiction of city life and the female body. Weise suggests that “Celia is erected merely from a discourse about her” (716) , and in the poem the griminess of the city is encapsulated within the dressing room. This is stressed by the description of Celia’s belongings as ‘Litter’ (Swift 8), thus linking her with the filth and rubbish commonly associated with the urban

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