Zofloya and Style

Zofloya is a story whose main plot is a tragedy. This novel is classified as a gothic novel (“Dacre, Zofloya, 1806”). This is a gothic novel because the story’s outcome is a “tragedy.” Also, Victoria’s character is similar to a “Radcliffe-type heroine” (“Dacre, Zofloya, 1806”). This is because the main character is secluded from others, educated though life experiences, but she later becomes a fallen character. Zofloya possesses “special powers” over Victoria, through his deceitfulness. Also, he helps Victoria in her plots. Zofloya ends up turning into a fallen character as well. This novel contains deception and betrayal. In my opinion, this novel is a departure from many of the romances of previous eras, and it definitely portrays a new type of readership (those differing from the texts specifically for monarchs of previous eras), in that the message is a warning to readers about self-deception and betrayal. This novel appears to a wider audience, whose focus is about marriage and finding a suitable mate. This novel definitely serves to send a message to readers of what can happen when an individual comes in contact with the wrong mate.
In my view what is lacking in this novel is empathy or rather compassion for other characters that are present within the novel. Each character looks to the individual’s interests. This tendency to look out for one’s own goals and purposes will later serve to become a tragedy in the end.
When seeking to search how well this novel was received by audiences, I researched the reviews for this novel. When attempting to look up the reviews about Dacre’s novel, I came across several surprising reviews. These reviews could have been insights as to how well the novel was first received by audiences. According to a writer from “Scot’s Magazine 64 (June, 1802, p. 47), 2 “The writer states, that this text is “an improper novel” for audiences. Another writer further states the novel,” introduces the readers to scenes and language adapted to wear away the quick feelings of modesty, which form at once the ornament and the safeguard of innocence, and like the bloom upon a plumb, if effaced, commonly disappears forever (“Scots Magazine 59 (June, 1797), 374-5 extracted from Gisborne”). Another reviewer stated, in regards to Dacre’s novel, “The reason is that unfortunately they have the seeds of nonsense, bad taste, and ridiculous fancies, early sown in their minds.” (Literacy Journal, a Review of Domestic and Foreign Literature, 2nd Series June 1806, 631-635).
Even when writing the novel, Dacre argues that this is a novel intended for “principles.” For example, in chapter one, she writes “The historian who would wish his lessons to sink deep into the heart, thereby essaying to render mankind virtuous and more happy…he must ascertain causes, and follow progressively their effects; he must draw deductions from incidents as they arise, and ever revert to the actuating principle.” (“Zofloya”). Although, Dacre’s novel may have been said to badly influence readers, Dacre’s intent was to portray what could happen in the absence of morality.
Dacre’s style is similar to the style of many writers of the novel. For example, the type of characters in which she has created are distinct. It is also important to mention that even their names are significant. According to Ian Watts in the Rise of the Novel, even comments on the significance of the type of characters and the importance of the type of names given. For example he states “proper names have exactly the same function in social life: they are the verbal expression of the particular identity of each individual person. In literature, however, this function of proper names was first fully established in the novel.” (18). In my opinion, Dacre’s characters function the same way. Even the name Victoria and Zofloya have significance. Therefore, although Dacre’s novel may have not been received so well, it holds a significant place within literature.

One thought on “Zofloya and Style

  1. Interesting collection of ideas here about the novel–I like your interest in the effects of the novel and its passionate, gothic style. I am also intrigued by your point that Victoria is a tragic character–that could make for a very interesting post in and of itself! I do think we need more focused attention on one key thing you notice, however, and then show how you see that in the book. For instance, if Victoria is a tragic character, why do you think so? What evidence in the novel do we get to see her as a character whose fall we should find pitiable?

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