Noble mind, the very beauty of human nature

Fanny Price had been instilled with the idea by his aunt Mansfield Park that she was nobody to the family and even to the world. However, Fanny was a tough and persistent girl to secure her vulnerable dignity with the noble thinking to live a meaningful life and ready to help others.

When her elder cousin Tom Bertram asked her out for company, Fanny was so self-humbled that she said “Everything. My situation, my foolishness and awkwardness” was preventing her from going out and having fun as she liked (p.18, para. 7), given her dilemma in which she had lost all the hopes to move on. Fanny tended to rate herself as a tough girl with the ability and tenacity to deal with all the bad days in her life journey, but sometimes, she also felt she needed a break from the pathetic life by chewing over the bitterness and getting her fragility exposed in public. At this sight, the good-hearted boy did not laugh at the seemingly weak and cowardliness of this poor girl; instead, he cheered her up by saying that she was a good girl, and in his eyes, even her clumsiness in movements was “adorable.”

Having lived in a family with mean parents, Tom Bertram knew deep down in his heart that how it felt to stay alone and how helpless he was to turn the table, because he simply could not escape this family, just like her poor little cousin Fanny, a girl in a foster family. To some degree, it was the similar perception of adult’s society and the cruel human world that made them converge in mentality, in spite of the appearance of people, good or bad.

As a boy haunted by loneliness and sentimentality, he tried all he could to remove the dark shadow over her. For instance, as to the vital importance of Fanny, he said “There is no reason in the world why you should not be important where you are known” (p.18. Para.25), in a bid to tide her through the darkness physically and mentally and make her on her feet. At this point, I saw two individuals bravely and optimistically deal with the mess in the life who were fighters for the light at the end of the tunnel. Although they might at time complaint about how a miserable life they were living, and how much the adults disliked them, they had never lost the humor to lighten their dark days and the courage to give a big smile to get each other’s back.

Also, they genuinely understood the vulnerability of human nature with an open mind, and it was this vulnerability spot that offered Fanny and her male cousin the perfect excuse to give vent to their unluckiness and setbacks encountered. I think, people’s noble mind is the very beauty of human nature.

Jane Austen’s Style-Mansfield Park

Jane Austen’s text, Mansfield Park, depicts the changes in her current nation of the eighteenth century of the changes in politics, and her changes that have occurred to Austen as a writer. Her writing differs from her previous texts, Emma and Persuasion, according to Katheryn Sutherland (vii). Sutherland states, “critics have detected a free spirit of wit and compassionate spontaneity corresponding to their post-Revolutionary origins, Austen’s mature Regency writings appear to strike a more constrained note, sardonic rather than witty, to caution retirement and the wisdom of second thought.” (vii). Hence, Austen may have been reacting to the events of her time period. Also, Sutherland states, “Published in 1814, Mansfield Park inaugurates this change, and while critics and readers embraced what seems both new and familiar in Emma (1815) and Persuasion (1817), they remain suspicious of Mansfield Park. Austen’s most designed and designing novel, its ideological program is oppressive and puzzling, insistent and yet difficult to pin down.” While reading Mansfield Park, I encountered several complexities in style. These were mostly found in diction and sentence structure.
Austen uses formal speech to describe the characters in the story. For example, the narrator when describing Miss Ward, she uses terms such as “captivate Sir Thomas Bertram” when referring to Miss Maria Ward, and “raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences.” Even the house is described as “handsome” (5). The language is very complex and formal.
Austen also uses complex sentence structure. For example, in the beginning of the text she writes, “Miss Ward’s match, indeed, when it came to the point, was not contemptible, Sir Thomas being happily able to give his friend an income in living in Mansfield, and Mr. and Mrs. Norris began their career of conjugal felicity with very little less than a thousand a year” (5). This complexity is a signal as Sutherland states, the constraints in which many of the characters found themselves in (where as family was a system of stability, yet “constraint” (Sutherland, viii).). According to Sutherland, “In Mansfield Park family functions in largely negative and ironic terms: as both constrictive space, hampering the desires of its members, and as that which is defined in its absence as the only foundation of individual identity.” More specifically, while family is seen to bring stability, for the characters in the text, this system functions as preventing the characters in the novel from achieving their desired outcomes. Chapter One explains the marriage of the sisters, and their marriage arrangements how one sister married “A Lieutenant of Marines without education, fortune, or connections, did it very thoroughly.” These will all serve to be the source of the trouble that many characters find themselves. For example, the narrator states, “an absolute breach between the sisters had taken place” (6). She explains this as “the natural result of the conduct of each party and such as a very imprudent marriage almost always produces” (6). Another example of the complex structure in sentences is found when the Austen writes “Their homes were so distant, and the circles in which they moved so distinct, as almost to preclude the means of ever hearing each other’s existence during the eleven years, or at least to make it very wonderful to Sir Thomas…(6). This complexity indicates the complex relationship and emotions the sisters found themselves in.

Manipulative Power and Brutality of Victoria

In Charlotte Dacre’s gothic novel Zofloya; or, The Moor, Victoria is shaped like the main heroine, which carries the characteristics of being manipulative, brutal and violent. The dark side of Victoria’s personality is best exemplified by her attitude towards her husband, Berenza.

Victoria used to own a rather happy family, but she has changed a lot since her mother left home. She held extremely strong revenge and cursed over her mother’s betrayal of the entire family, and this kind of thinking has directly influenced her relationship with Berenza. Her life with Berenza has been tranquil for the beginning several years, but after Berenza’s brother Henriquez came into their life, Victoria began to plan how to get rid of Berenza and eliminate Henriquez’s lover Lilla, and her cruelty gradually emerged.

In the beginning, Victoria deemed Berenza’s love as redundant and the blockade that hindered her pursuit for Henriquez’s love, so she could not hide her impatience towards Berenza. However, Berenza never noticed that, and he still showed his passionate affection to Victoria, but Victoria considered this to be rather disgusting and tried to escape from him. Poor Berenza “mistook this for the embrace of eager love, repentant at past coldness, and the accompanying action for sportive gaiety only.” (Dacre, 187) Actually, Berenza had no idea of Victoria’s change, and he still possessed the passion and love towards her. By taking advantage of Berenza’s love, Victoria could utterly control him. For poor Berenza, he viewed every move of Victoria as lovely and attractive, but Victoria hated it and never told him the truth. As Charlotte Dacre depicted, “while gazing herself with the thought-how soon he would cease to be”, (Dacre, 187) it was obvious that Victoria only had resentment over Berenza. Berenza’s innocence and pure love for Victoria did not move Victoria, but on the contrary, it just made Victoria’s coldness appear to be more prominent.

Later, after Victoria was seduced by Zofloya, she even planned to poison Berenza to death. Victoria’s desire for Henriquez occupied all her attention, so she would have to be indifferent and cruel towards Berenza. In Victoria’s crazy mind, she was quite eager to make Berenza vanish from her life so that she could obtain the opportunity to approach to Henriquez. Victoria offered Berenza the poison secretly, and Berenza should have no doubt over this. Clearly, he presented total trust and love towards her. Surprisingly, sometimes Victoria was very anxious because the poison was too slow to take effect. It was unimaginable for ordinary people to accept her cruelty and heartlessness. Compared to innocent Berenza, who showed his authentic love for Victoria, Victoria’s ruthlessness to kill him just out of her absurd idea was stunning to witness.

From Victoria’s impatience towards Berenza’s passionate love, it was evident that Victoria has completely manipulated him, and she possessed the absolutely dominant position in their relationship. After she fell in love in Henriquez, she hid the truth in front of Berenza and secretly kept planning to poison Berenza to death. Her manipulative power and brutality can be demonstrated through her attitude and behaviors over Berenza.

 

Works Cited

Dacre, Charlotte. Zofloya; or, The Moor. Vol. 2. London. 1806.

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.

Lord Orville

While reading Evelina, I kept thinking of how her situation and relationship was shaped in the eyes of Lord Orville.

For Evelina, it was either have Lord Orville as a lover, or not have him at all. Thus, parting away was not just to quit loving him, but to quit being his friend.

Do we have to choose between having a certain man as a lover, or not having him in our lives at all?

Lord Orville and Mr. Macartney were the two gentlemen that she had been interacting with in Vol 3.  They were similar in the fact they were both carrying for Evelina, but different in the way they had approached her. Evelina never said she would quit Mr. Macartney, but she did say she has to leave Lord Orville. Evelina kept questioning her relationship with Lord Orville and never understood the confusion that she was in. However the letter she had received signed by his name, was her guide to his personality.

Evelina, in various letters to Mr. Villars showed her distress for losing her friendship with Lord Orville (page 372). She had made her decision to leave him. But, why should she have to lose his friendship?

Lord Orville is interested in being with Evelina regardless where she would be. He was pleased to see her at the Cliffton Highiets. He was behaving naturally as he was unaware, in fact ignorant of the letter that Evelina received. He was also obvious about his interest in Evelina, and she also noticed that. His interest made him look more awkward and mysterious. He seemed like a man whose actions were not following his words.

For Evelina, a man who rejected her, like Lord Orville, would not be playing fool and ignorant. Why did he send the letter if he had any feelings for her? At the dance, he danced with another lady. Evelina might have thought of him as a womanizer, or a foolish young man. Either characteristics made Lord Orville look worse. For a young man to be undecided or unable to stick to his word, was not the type of a man that would be suitable for marriage. He changed his mind between wanting Evelina, flattering her and dancing with her, and rejecting her and dancing with another lady. Thus, it would be better for Evelina to leave him than stay.

It was easy to see Evelina’s perspectives through her letters. However, I think it would be more interesting to look into this from the prospective of Lord Orville. He had no idea of the reasons that made Evelina pull away. She was cold in many ways. He saw Evelina and Mr. Macartney were exchanging papers or letters. Lord Orville got jealous because Evelina met Mr. Macartney several times. These were hits for him that she might have loved Mr. Macartney. So, to know her more and know her secrets, he behaved as a brother. If in case she had a lover, he would not lose his dignity.

Evelina did not want Lord Orville misunderstand her or lose her reputation (pages, 334-335, 337). She did not want him to leave her, but she wanted to be the one who was leaving her. It was her opportunity to revenge. She would reject him back. Thus, only when Lord Orville was around her that she would be more conscious about dealing with Mr. Macartney. She knew that situation would make Lord Orville jealous of her, and might leave her. And, Lord Orville noticed that she was not comfortable dealing with Mr. Macartney while he was around. This made Evelina more mysterious.

Study of the past: the saint and the witch

To judge a person, we need to know what he/she has done, over a longer period, or even in his/her whole life. So I would like to take a step back and look at what happened before the story. There are two people that I am particularly interested. First, Reverend Arthur Villars. Second, Madame Duvall. These two individuals are representing an extreme of good and evil that a person can get in the 18 century London.
Arthur Villars is like a saint; he took care of not only Evelina but also Evelina’s Mother and Grandfather. Initially, I thought he was a stubborn old man that says no to everything. But after knowing what happened before the story, I can feel the struggle in his heart when reading his words; he was the true father of the Evelyn line, but helplessly he had to watch them fall, one by one. He wants nothing but the best for Evelina, but he worries that the world will take her, the very last angel of his, away too.
“Your Ladyship may probably have heard, that I had the honour to accompany Mr. Evelyn, the grandfather of my young charge, when upon his travels, in the capacity of a tutor.”(20)
“He survived this ill-judged marriage but two years. Upon his death-bed, with an unsteady hand, he wrote me the following note:
“My friend, forget your resentment, in favour of your humanity;-a father, trembling for the welfare of his child, bequeaths her to your care. O Villars! hear! pity! And relieve me!”(21)
“Monsieur Duval, sent for her to Paris. How often have I since regretted that I did not accompany her thither!”(23)
Madame Duval, or we may also say Mrs.Evelyn, is ridiculously selfish and would do anything to get herself benefit. Without suggesting anything, just look at the numbers: Mr.Evelyn died after two years marrying her. She tried to “sell” Evelina’s mother right after she turned 18 and disowned her after failed. For that I would say, she as a mother, has nothing to do with Carline’s growing up, but has a lot to do with Caroline’s miserable fate. Now Evelina is 17, and Madame Duvall shows up, once again, is trying to sell her granddaughter just like what she did to her poor daughter.
“it is evident, from her writing, that she is still as vulgar and illiterate as when her first husband, Mr. Evelyn, had the weakness to marry her”(16)
“Madame Duval to abandon the unfortunate Lady Belmont, at a time when a mother’s protection was peculiarly necessary for her peace and her reputation.”(17)
It is fascinating to find the author has made these two people the very opposite side of humanity. Villar gives all the love he can to help Mr.Evelyn, Carline Evelyn, and Evelina, he brings knowledge and education to them. On the other side, to the same individuals, Mr.Evelyn, Carline Evelyn, and Evelina, Duvall tries to take advantage of each one of them. All she cares is her self-interest, she does not care if her action will bring the worst to others. Many famous stories after the 18 century have comparable distinctive characters, and perhaps Duvall is one of the origins of the “old witches”?

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’s Education

Evelina’s knowledge of social norms is something that Evelina has learned as time progresses. This knowledge can be coined in the term as Evelina’s education. There is a difference between the ways in which Evelina responds to social norms when she is with the Mirvan’s, and when she is with the Branghton/Duvals. When she is with the Mirvans, she comes to the realization that there are certain rules governing behavior. For example, when Evelina goes on outings with the Mirvans, she discovers that it is not proper to dance with strangers. For example, she states “Now Maria’s partner was a gentleman of Mrs. Mirvan’s acquaintance; for she had told us it was improper for young women to dance with strangers, at any public assembly. Indeed it was by no means my wish so to do; yet I did not like to confine myself from dancing at all; neither did I dare refuse this gentleman” (44).
Evelina also discovers that it is not proper to laugh in regards to a person of status. Evelina makes this confession when she discusses Captain Mirvan’s first acquaintance with Madame Duval. Evelina states, “I heard no more; amazed, frightened, and…shocked…I sunk into Mrs. Mirvan’s arms (57).
Upon learning that Evelina is in the care of Madame Duval, Mr. Villars advises her of proper conduct, For example, he states “Conduct yourself towards her with all the respect and deference due to so near a relation, remembering always that the failure of duty on her part, can by no means justify any neglect on yours: indeed, the more forcibly you are struck with improprieties and misconduct in another, the greater should be your observance and diligence to avoid even the shadow of similar errors. Be careful, therefore, that no remissness of attention, no indifference of obliging, make known to her the independence I assure of…” (60). The education that Evelina had before arriving staying with the Mirvans has been to be in terms of character development. For example, she has been taught integrity, kindness, and politeness. When Evelina stays with the Mirvans, her education consists of how to conduct oneself in a genteel society. For example, she discovers that there are proper codes of conduct. Although she is not at first keen to these traditions, she soon as the story progresses learns the rules, and finds her place in society.
Evelina is able to maintain her place in elite society, as a result of her education. Her education has enabled her to weather the difficulties. For example, Lady Howard comments on her excellent education. Lady Howard states, “She is quite a little rustic, and knows nothing of the world, and though her education has been the best, I could bestow in this retired place, to which Dorchester, the nearest town, is seven miles distant…” (20). Evelina is able to survive because she is quite keen to her surroundings. For example, Lady Howard to the Rev. Mr. Villars states, Her character seems truly ingenious and simple; and of at the same time the nature has blessed her with an excellent understanding, and great qualities of parts, she has a certain air of inexperience and innocency that is extremely interesting” (22). Therefore, since Evelina may not truly understand the ways of the world, she is quick and adaptable. She can quickly adjust to her environment, as seen in the many characters she lives.
In contrast the education that Evelina learns with the Mirvans contrast with the lessons she learns from the Duvals. I would say that when Evelina first comes to stay with the Mirvan’s her education is surface, as concerning politeness and being friendly and compatible, but when she is with Madame Duval, she learns how to distinguish herself within society. With the Mirvans, Evelina learns that there is proper behavior for “balls, plays, operas, ridiottos” (61).
With Madame Duval, Evelina learns proper behavior. She learns that there are certain rules governing fashion. She is first acquainted with fashion with the Mirvan’s, but she develops a better understanding with the Duvals (65). From Madame Duval, she learns proper conversation; she learns not to discuss politics while in her conversations with others (66). Also, when Evelina comes in contact with Sir Clement Willoughby, she learns the fewer the words, the better off she will be (71). For example, Evelina states, “He stopped; but I said nothing, for I thought instantly of the conversation Miss Mirvan had overheard, and supposed he was going to tell me himself what part Lord Orville had borne in it; (71).
In my opinion, Evelina’s education consisted of learning the social norms of her community. As the novel progresses, we see that she learns how to master these norms, and she even develops as a character.

Social Norms in Evelina

Through various characters in Evelina, Frances Burney demonstrates the preoccupation with reputation and propriety that is often associated with England in the eighteenth century. This theme is made evident in the first exchange of letters between Lady Howard and Mr. Villars. In her account of Madame Duval’s letter, Lady Howard acknowledges Madame Duval’s concerns for her own reputation: “she is totally at a loss in what manner to behave; she seems desirous to repair the wrongs she had done, yet wishes the world to believe her blameless” (Burney 11). Lady Howard goes on to condemn Madame Duval’s faux pas of writing to her at all: “it is evident, from her writing, that she is still as vulgar and illiterate as when her first husband, Mr. Evelyn, had the weakness to marry her; nor does she at all apologize for addressing herself to me, though I was only once in her company” (Burney 12). Lady Howard’s disdain for Madame Duval is obvious, and it seems that Duval’s failure to uphold social mores plays a key role in Howard’s categorization of her as an “unworthy woman” (Burney 12). Meanwhile, the mutually apologetic and gracious tones employed by both Lady Howard and Mr. Villars present these two as being very much aware of (if not obsessed with) social norms, and an urgent desire not to offend one another at any cost.

While this emphasis on manners is attributed to multiple characters, it is arguably the most significant trait of the protagonist, Evelina. She is constantly worried about offending others or embarrassing herself by going against social norms that she is unfamiliar with. She uses the word “shame” or “ashamed” numerous times when describing these anxieties: when asking Mr. Villars for permission to go to London (“I am half ashamed of myself for beginning this letter” [Burney 25]), when she can’t afford to buy anything from the mercers in the shop (“they took so much trouble, that I was almost ashamed that I could not” [Burney 30]), her anxiety during her first meeting with Lord Orville (“I was seized with a panic, that I could hardly speak a word, and nothing but the shame of so soon changing my mind, prevented me returning to my seat” [Burney 32]). Evelina describes her own self-consciousness as being a result of her upbringing as a “simple rustic… one whose ignorance of the world makes her perpetually fear doing something wrong!” (Burney 33). Of course, this ignorance is the impetus for the entire plot of the novel. As Burney explicitly states in her preface to the novel:

To draw characters from nature, though not from life, and to mark the manners of the times, is the attempted plan of the following letters. For this purpose, a young female, educated in the most secluded retirement, makes, at the age of seventeen, her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life; with a virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart, her ignorance of the forms, and inexperience of the manners, of the world, occasion all the little incidents which these volumes record, and which form the natural progression of the life of a young woman of obscure birth, but conspicuous beauty, for the first six months after her Entrance into the world. (Burney 7-8)

By having a protagonist who is very much unaware of many of the social customs that governed British society in the eighteenth century, Burney has the freedom to comment on established conventions in a way that calls attention to them without actively condemning them. I’m curious to see how this plays out in the novel (at the moment I’m still reading Volume I), and how much Evelina assimilates into life according to these rules (if at all).


Works Cited

Burney, Frances. Evelina. New York: Penguin, 2004. Print.

 

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.