Women who do not behave within the societal norms of the eighteenth century are marginalized; however, those very characters are often the most interesting through the novel. In Roxana Roxana is on the outskirts of society because she chooses to remain a kept woman for various men. It is that very free spirit and strong will that draws readers in. In Evelina Mrs. Selwyn’s sassy attitude puts her at odds with many of the men, but her outspokenness is what makes her an interesting foil character to Evelina. Victoria’s questionable behavior is treated in the same way in Zofloya, she is one of the few women characters we read about that truly went after what she wanted and ends up in Satan’s arms at the end of the novel. Fanny Price is kept on the outskirts of her family, not because she stands up for herself but the opposite; because Fanny cannot speak up she becomes an afterthought for her family, but her insightful quips help move the novel’s plot along. I will only focus on Mrs. Selwyn and Victoria.
Mrs. Selwyn’s owns the people around her. When “three gentlemen” confront her and Evelina she promises to “give [her] servant the trouble of teaching [them] better manners” (Burney 265). Her comment and “commanding air struck them, yet they all chose to laugh” (B 265), in a way dismissing her bold statement. Mrs. Selwyn’s boss like ways do not stop at amazing men, but in fact surprises Evelina with her “severity” despite Lord Merton “disgusting” Evelina upon first speaking to her. Rather than Evelina taking issue with Lord Merton’s bad behavior, she takes issue with Mrs. Selwyn standing up for herself and for Evelina. Mrs. Selwyn has a fantastic quip for each scene she is in. When the “gentlemen” of the house opt to race old women, Mrs. Selwyn says, “These enterprizes, are very proper for men of rank, since ‘tis a million to one but both parties will be incapacitated for any better employment” (B 279). Such a wonderful line about their choice of sport, and no one chooses to recognize what Mrs. Selwyn says. As much as Mrs. Selwyn is ignored, Victoria out of Dacre’s novel is rarely ignored.
Victoria’s motives were questionable from the moment Dacre introduced the vain girl. Her murderous ways are only apparent after she meets Zofloya, to whom she is extremely attracted and half acts on that via her potion exchanges with him. Victoria’s relationship, though unknown to the other characters in the novel, put her on the outskirts of their society. Victoria feels alive when she is with Zofloya, “Speak on then, Zofloya; your words are magic, they soothe my soul, and I feel hope!” (Dacre 153). Victoria does not feel this way with anyone else, and has to fake her relationship with Berenza in order for him to marry her. Henriquez even wants nothing to do with her, and he barely knows her. Victoria is not “cast out” solely because she tries to attain what she wants, but in part because she practices morally repugnant behavior in her efforts to obtain Henriquez. Her obsession with death, specifically killing those closest to her, is what keeps the plot moving, and her moving into the arms of Satan.