“Bad Girls World”

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.

The Meek Shall Inherit a Fistful of Teeth

Fanny’s character in Mansfield Park represents a sort of underdog that is seen in other Austen novels and in Burney’s Evelina. Austen’s novels typically end in a happy ending for the heroine of the novel. The same occurred for Evelina: finding, and claiming, her true parentage, becoming the young woman out in society Mr. Villars could be proud of, and finding herself married to Lord Orville, the man of her dreams. Fanny is no different than Evelina, born of poor circumstances, taken in by wealthier people than she, and through hardship finds herself married to the man she—secretly—loves. In typical society Fanny would not be the woman to envy, but the Maria and Julie Bertram girls, and Mary Crawford’s of the world are. Austen uses Fanny’s meek temperament in direct contrast to the aforementioned woman to place Fanny in a shining light.
Fanny’s inability to speak up for herself, opting instead for Edmund to speak up for her, portrays her as kind in comparison to Miss Crawford. Fanny insists that men “can write long letters” when “they are at a distance from all their family” (57). She never actually rejects Miss Crawford’s opinion that all men write short letters, simply thinks of her experience with William instead of actually explaining her situation as evidence against Miss Crawford’s strong opinion.
Fanny seems accustomed to being trampled on by women who surround her. When showing Miss Crawford to a guest room, Fanny takes the verbal and non-verbal abuse given to her. Miss Crawford “shook her head at Fanny with arch, yet affectionate reproach” to follow up those actions with this verbal quip: “Sad, sad girl! I do not know when I shall have done scolding you” (331). By being patient, Fanny is able to wait for Edmund’s obsession with Miss Crawford to pass; ultimately securing Edmund’s hand in marriage.
Edmund, no longer entertained by Ms. Crawford, gives Fanny the attention she deserves as his companion. Once Fanny is “at liberty to speak freely” (426) her “friendship was all that [Edmund] had to cling to (427). This conversation led, in part, to Edmund’s ceasing to “care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny, as Fanny herself could desire” (436). Fanny is arguably the most sensible woman throughout the novel, the other taking queues from Mrs. Norris: barely tolerable.

Sassy Ladies for the Win

Mrs. Selwyn is what a woman ought to be: opinionated, sarcastic, and intelligent. Our darling Evelina, who has grown to be so cultured in the six months she was away from Reverend Villars, could certainly learn from Mrs. Selwyn’s brazen attitude. In the time Evelina has spent with more refined folks, she has regressed in matters of being bold—albeit from lack of knowing the “proper” way of being—to a timid creature that can rarely speak for herself.

As volume three opens, Evelina immediately presents us with Mrs. Selwyn’s “commanding air” by giving a caustic answer to a group of obnoxious men: “You had better, therefore, make way quietly, for I should be sorry to give my servant the trouble of teaching you better manners” (265). Mrs. Selwyn’s severity is to be admired, for she stands her ground even as most women would cower away from the challenge of a group of men (precisely as Evelina does). One of Mrs. Selwyn’s best answers that showcases her biting intelligence, is in response to Lord Merton’s attempts at gaining Evelina’s favor: “In a manner which your Lordship will think very extraordinary for the young Lady reads” (267). Evelina is so focused on maintaining good appearance that she can hardly speak for herself, only allowing herself the minimal answers as to not offend the Lord in front of her.

Mrs. Selwyn is an audacious woman who knows the worth of her intelligence, moreover, knows her ability to use it in conversation. Her knowledge of what is proper gives her the foresight to address those around her properly, while still managing to make them look like imbeciles; as she does when addressing Mr. Lovel, “Mr. Lovel [. . .] if the roses should blush, how would you find it out” (353). Of course, the foppish Mr. Lovel has no adequate response to this attack: he clearly expels too much energy on looking pretty and not enough on reading. Mrs. Selwyn exemplifies this when she questions Evelina’s conversation with Lord Orville: “Pray is my Lord so kind as to assist you in preparing for your journey,–or in retarding it” (357). Evelina seems to notice a difference between the likes of Mrs. Selwyn and the Branghton girls. Not only do the Branghton girls not have a brain cell between the two of them, they are totally unaware of their lack of sophistication. Whereas Mrs. Selwyn is allowed a sort of “pass” by Evelina because Mrs. Selwyn knows her place and knows how to behave, yet ignores the rules simply because she wants to. And that, is a lesson Evelina could stand to learn instead of silencing herself into a title.

Evelina: The lowly, country, bumpkin comes to London.

First off, I would like to say that Evelina has been the most interesting book I’ve encountered since starting at MU. Moreover, it is a genuinely good book, not simply interesting “in comparison” to other books I’ve had to read.

I am mildly at a loss of what to write in response to Evelina. This may be in part because I actually liked this book; however, the only think I can place a finger on is Evelina’s character growth through the first two volumes through her social interaction. Her growth is a direct result of being insulted by those around her, Evelina taking that in and using it to better herself and her character.

While Mr. Villars and Lady Howard make Evelina’s inexperience quite obvious, to the readers, Evelina herself makes it known the to the world by her characterization of a ballroom in which she sees “half the world” (19). Especially as she interrupts Mr. Lovel’s “ridiculous solemnity” to laugh openly in his face after rejecting his invitation to dance: “I had not once considered the impropriety of refusing one partner, and afterwards accepting another” (24). Evelina takes away a great lesson after this encounter, mostly because she is mocked for it as said by Mr. Lovel: “I hope [Evelina] you have enjoyed your health since I had the honour—I beg ten thousand pardon, but I protest I was going to say the honour of dancing with you—however, I mean the honour of seeing you dance” (69). From this point forward, Evelina is more aware of her surroundings especially in social settings.

From her perspective Evelina advances her situation by applying her initial embarrassment to avoid future embarrassments and takes note of “what not to do” in others’ behavior. Evelina is offered a ticket to a ball by Mr. Smith. In this exchange, Evelina “[thanks] him, but desired to be excused accepting it” and takes note that “he would not [. . .] be denied, nor answered, and, in a manner both vehement and free, pressed and urged his offer till [she] was wearied to death” (171). Even as Miss Polly and Miss Biddy lead her into a dangerous situation, which Evelina is able to run away from, she recognizes Miss Biddy’s terrible attitude towards her: “You ran away from me! Well, see if I don’t do as much by you” (196). Evelina is “so much surprised at this attack” (196), but does not condescend to Miss Biddy’s petulance but simply takes note of it and does not rise to the bait. By taking in the different forms of abuse, Evelina enables her growth and learns what is truly like as a woman out in society.

Evelina’s acute observational skills are what set her apart from whichever crowd she is surrounded by. Her initial embarrassing episode is enough to make her a woman keenly aware of her surroundings, thus pushing her over the threshold into becoming a woman of society (versus the lowly country girl she was referred to in the beginning and throughout volume II by her cousins).

 

Burney, Fanny. Evelina. Minola: Dover Thrift Editions, 2015. Print.

None for you, Monk.

Religion is not a main topic of concern of Laurence Sterne in his A Sentimental Journey, it is however, mentioned just often enough to make it a topic of interest. Yorick, Sterne’s main character, begins his travel journal with a rejection of a religion via a Monk, but ends his tale with dancing in support of piety. The Monk changes Yorick’s perspectiving on giving, and is ultimately redeemed when Yorick himself is shown charity and kindness by a family who provides him dinner.

Yorick’s initial contact with religion in ASJ  is when he meets a Monk in Calais, who “came into the room to beg something for his convent” (7). Yorick is determined “not to give him a single sous” (7) but quickly regrets his decision: “I had no right over the poor Franciscan, but to deny him; and that the punishment of that was enough” (9). Yorick’s initial attitude towards beggars is softened after meeting the Monk for more than a minute; he even reminds himself to “learn better manners” as he goes about his travels (10). Thus, Yorick has his first experience with religion during his travels.

Yorick’s experience with the Monk makes him a more generous man. In Montriul “the sons and daughters of poverty [surrounded]” Yorick and he found himself compel himself to give out a “few sous” (35). His generosity comes through later when he meets a girl in a book shop and gives her money: “I never gave a girl a crown in my life which gave me half the pleasure” (64). Though this girl is no beggar, Yorick is acquiring a taste for giving and one can see the transition from a miser to a much more generous man.

Lastly Yorick comes across a man who is able to sway women into giving him money by flattering them. Yorick is more than ready to give the man “a sous or two out of [his] pocket” but the man is only interested in “[asking] charity of [. . .] little women” (91). As Yorick watches the man as he “begg’d for a twelve-sous piece” from each woman (103), only to discover that the man sweet talks these women into giving him money. This last moment of charity for Yorick is interesting because it is literally the opposite of how his money giving adventures started. The Monk asked for nothing, but Yorick is let with a man who has the audacity to ask women for a specific amount of money

There is no mention of religiousness throughout the course of the novel, however, when charity is bestowed upon Yorick in the form of a dinner he is graced with a performance of a family’s religious devotion: “[The father] had made it a rule [for] his family to dance and rejoice; believing [. . .] a cheerful and contended mind was the best sort of thanks to heaven” (114). For Yorick, there is a twinge that religion ignites in him that leads him to cloister his money or turn loose his pocket strings. But in the only act of charity and grace bestowed upon him, Yorick is much more open to another man’s religiosity finally seeing how charity may work in one’s favor.

Morally Boring and Mildly Enraging

When I first read through the Pamela excerpt I was . . . enraged, flabbergasted, and frustrated with Pamela’s character. Pamela proved herself to be a weak character who could not stand up for herself and allowed herself to be kept hostage for months. The only reprieve I received from her weakness was her attempt to escape, which she could not even complete and literally fell into failure.

Upon realizing how frustrated I was with Pamela, I realized my rage was (somewhat) misplaced. I knew I should have been angry with Mr. B for attempting to rape a fifteen year old girl and moreover for keeping her hostage for months. Not only is he a despicable character for locking this girl away for any period of time, but even more reprehensible for using a false pretense to initially lure her into the carriage (thinking she would be taken to her family’s home). This kind of falsehood puts him into the same category as Judas and Brutus—bastard liars.

The relationship between the two is an odd one, mostly because Pamela seems to develop Stockholm syndrome with Mr. B (even though he is not physically her captor much of the time). Her feelings for him, however, are not totally surprising when Pamela finally does admit her feelings for him. She writes about her keeper from the beginning and mentions him in nearly every letter she writes to her parents. If Pamela’s feelings for Mr. B are not known even to herself, there are traces of it that the reader may follow from her initial letter home. The way the pair “falls in love” is truly one for the record books, or amongst a kidnapper/pedophile’s dream.

The whole story is bizarre. In discussing it with a co-worker he said the story was better viewed in the light of satire. Reviewing the story mentally, and given the weakness of the character, the story is better viewed as a satire. While Dr. Howe said in class that Richardson attempted to make Pamela a character without flaw, he does so to a fault which in turn makes her nearly a joke.

I am inclined to believe my co-worker is correct. Mostly because it makes Pamela a much more likable character if she is not meant to be taken seriously and meant to make light of totally moral characters. Is there a happy medium between the pious Pamela and harlot Roxana?

You can have your cross, I’ll take the cash.

There is a much greater mention of religion in the second half of the novel, than there was in the first (the prayer Amy and Roxana offer up as they toss and turn in the ship to England). We see it first after rejecting the Dutch man, that she has spent “six and twenty Years [in] Wickedness” (178). She does nothing to repent for this “wickedness” but instead “wallow’d in Wealth” (178). To prove her point, though she beings the paragraph speaking of vice and sin, she ends it with an account of her money. It is mildly frustrating that this woman, who knows that is outside the norms of society and Christianity (it can be argued that they are, in fact, one in the same), laments it at times, hides her true self from everyone around her but Amy, and yet does nothing to redeem herself or to step away from her courtesan lifestyle.

Arguably, money is Roxana’s religion. It is the only thing she is truly faithful to, and the only thing that keeps her motivated to keep pressing on in her life. Christianity has had no effect on Roxana’s spiritual wellbeing (constantly proven by her sexual escapades with wealthy men), money has, however, had a lasting impression on her. Moreover, of the three people to be named in the novel, none of them are her husbands, which shows she does not think they are too important, Amy, Roxana herself, and Sir Robert Clayton. Roxana finally allows herself to give into his “church” of money, and lets Sir Clayton to invest her money for her. Sir Clayton has allowed Roxana to remain on her own, without a man to continually give her money, which is why Roxana finds him worthy of maintaining a name.

The second half of the novel sees Roxana starting to take care of her children by giving them part of her religion: money. Roxana knows that she cannot explain to her children why she abandoned them, and what she has been doing for the past two decades without revealing her prostitute like ways: “what will my children say to themselves, and to one another, when they find their Mother, however rich she may be, is at best but a Whore, a common Whore” (194). Thus, she provides for them monetarily, the only manner she knows how. For Roxana, this is a huge show of affection. She has literally counted her money throughout the novel, so for her to be giving it away is truly a sign of her devotion.

The last bit, of true religion that readers see is the Quaker woman. It allows the reader to see what Roxana’s life could have been: single, lots of children, poor, and renting rooms to strangers for money.

Gal Pals

Daniel Defoe’s Roxana is not the novel I had in mind. I initially thought Roxana was a prostitute in the typical sense: a monetary exchange for brief sexual favors. I was however, mildly disappointed, when I was presented with a woman who could not care for herself, much less her children, who turned out to be a “kept woman” for several different men. Through the course of her role as a kept woman, Roxana has a maid, Amy, who stays faithful to Roxana through her escapades. Amy proves herself to be the ever consistent, other half of Roxana remaining by Roxana’s side through several different men.

Roxana, upon realizing she is without husband and in charge of five children finds herself allowing her maid, Amy, to drop her children off at her sister-in-laws house. Amy, being the diligent maid does this without protest, going as far as lying to Roxana’s sister-in-law so that Roxana “might be freed from the dreadful Necessity of seeing [her children and herself] perish” (59). This is merely the introduction Defoe gives us of Amy’s steadfast character, and her willingness to do anything for Roxana, including abandoning a group of children at Roxana’s request.

Amy is able to convince Roxana that sleeping with men out of necessity is not deplorable. Through Amy’s logic, that an “abundance of Charity begins in that Vice” (67) she is able to reason with Roxana that the landlord is presenting her with a chance to live comfortably again. Initially Roxana is opposed to the idea of “[laying] with him for Bread” (67), but Amy is able to sway her mistress by saying that she herself would sleep with the landlord if it meant feeding them both: “[if] the Condition was such, that he would not serve you unless I would let him lye with me, he should lye with me as often as he would, rather than you should not have his Assistance” (68). Defoe shows us the sway that Amy has over Roxana, that the two are almost one mind, seen in how Amy convinces Roxana to use her body for their gain. Roxana forces her companion/faithful maid to sleep with her “John,” putting Amy’s words of support and encouragement to the test: “so I fairly stript her, and then I threw open the Bed, and thrust her in [with the Landlord]” (85). Amy’s devotion to Roxana is so strong, she is not resentful that Roxana essentially forced her rape, but that she felt like “a Whore” and “a Slut” because she was unwed (85).

Amy’s guilt is eloquently expressed as she wakes from being unconscious on the ship ride to England: “Don’t you know what a wicked creature I have been? I have been a whore to two Men, and have liv’d a wretched abominable Life of Vice and Wickedness for fourteen Years” (161). This comment in turns forces Roxana to confront her own actions up to this point in the novel, of which she has not been ashamed of or even remotely repentant about. Only after Amy’s “confession” does Roxana realize she’s led life “with the utmost Contempt and Abhorrence” (162). Amy’s role at Roxana’s side is to remain true to her mistress, outlasting the men that come into their lives.

The Uncommon Man

Oroonoko Response

Oroonoko is not a common man; Aphra Behn makes that clear through her novel Oroonoko. Oroonoko is regal, beautiful (even by Behn’s Western standards), and a prince in his homeland. His uncommonailty is shown in several ways: when he is worshipped by people he sold into slavery, his freely spoken conversation with Trefry, his new owner, and in the stoic manner of his death.
Oroonoko’s greetings by the men and women he sold into slavery is odd, to say the least. Behn’s narrator states, “He was that prince who has, at several times, sold most of them to these parts; and, from a veneration they pay to great men [. . .] all cast themselves at his feet, crying out in their language, Live, O King!” (44). Behn is clearly trying to tell us that Oroonoko is so great that even those he condemned to a life of misery still find him worthy of praise. This scene does present the narrator an opportunity to show Oroonoko’s humility because he “[assures] them he [is] no better” than they are (44). While Oroonoko recognizes he is a slave, what other slaves are greeted with a “magnificent supper” (45). Perhaps by pointing out that Oroonoko realizes he is a slave, further expresses how uncommon he truly is by immediately changing his mentality from a prince to accepting his role as Trefry’s slave (admittedly, one may question whether Oroonoko truly accepts his role as slave because of how freely, and frequently, he asks Trefry to release himself and Imoinda).
The second passage that struck me was Oroonoko’s conversation with Trefry about a slave girl (which we find out is Imoinda) who refuses to sleep with Trefry. Oroonoko tells Trefry, “Or why, being your slave, you do not oblige her to yield [to you sexually]?” (46). Oroonoko just dealt with a situation similar to this in his homeland, where Imoinda was kept as part of the king’s harem of women (granted the king could not force himself sexually upon anyone). It made me wonder what could make Oroonoko so casual about rape, knowing that his wife could have been raped if the king could hold an erection. Even as Oroonko realizes that this woman is Imoinda, there is not a single mention of regret for saying that Trefry should have had his way with her.
The last scene that stuck in my memory is of Oroonoko smoking a pipe while the executioner cuts off chucks of his body with “an ill-favoured knife” (76). I took that to mean a dull knife, which would increase how painful it is for someone to cut off parts of your body. That being said, Oroonoko is uncommon even in his death and how stoic he is while he “allows” men to cut off parts of his body. There are few men who could be so cavalier about being sliced up.