Evelina And The Subordination Of Women

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Woman as a SubordinateThroughout history, women have been treated as a subordinate. There have been different standards for education, at women's disadvantage, different social standards, different responsibilities for men and women, different expectations, different standards for "goodness", different criteria for virtuousness. We see examples of these injustices throughout the text of Evelina as well as in the excerpts in the course packet. Eighteenth-century English jurist Sir William Blackstone declared in a magisterial passage, "By marriage, the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended, or at least it is incorporated or consolidated into that of the husband, under whose wing, protection, and cover she performs everything, and she is therefore called in our law a femme-covert" (The Nineteenth Century Intro. Pg. 171).

It was not until 1848, in the married woman's property act of New York that women gained some rights regarding material possessions. Education (differences in what men and women are taught) A "liberal education" as described in Defoe's Essay on Projects, 1697, consisted mainly of embroidery, modeling in wax, painting on glass, and musical accomplishments, although some girls' schools did put on plays and teach cooking skills. Most girls were trained for domestic service at the charity schools for women, and there was no form of formal higher education, such as college, available for women. Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Yale and Princeton were all solely men's institutions. Also, while women were taught mainly the native tongue and perhaps French, men had more extensive opportunities to learn other such Roman and Greek languages

(An essay in Defense of the Female Sex, 1696) Also, if a woman did obtain any extensive knowledge other than the normal trades taught at school, she was urged to keep quiet about it lest men be jealous of her intelligence. This is evident in Evelina on page 361 where Mrs. Selwyn is criticized for being an intelligent and logical woman in a time where women were supposed to be quieter and not engage in a match of wits with someone, especially a man, as we see Mrs. Selwyn challenging the intelligence of Mr. Lovel. These are all reasons why women authors during this time chose a pseudonym when publishing their books for fear that they would be ridiculed and their work not accepted for the mere fact of gender.

This is why Burney's dedication and her note to the critics is written as almost an apology for even attempting to write a novel being an inferior, or subordinate female. Not to mention the added pressure that the novel, as a work of writing, had a low status in the eighteenth century as opposed to poetry. Sarah M. Grimke concurs that women have been poorly educated and in subjects of domestic importance with "little pains taken to cultivate their minds" (p.44) and therefore believe that "marriage is a kind of preferment; and that to be able to keep their husband's house, and render his situation comfortable, is the end of their being." Women had not been taught to think more of themselves than a mere housewife as their ultimate achievement in life. Melodramatic females: capriciousness, fainting, overreacting to situations, embellishment, this is all to be expected from females. Lady Louisa, Orville's sister, is the most dramatic female character besides Madame Duval who is passionate and argumentative. Lady Louisa is a kind of 18th century Scarlet O'Hara. Louisa is always under some sort of emotional distress that keeps her from meals or makes her feel faint.

Evelina is not as dramatic, but appropriately stressed at the right moment, such as the pistol scene. She had enough control to handle herself in the situation without hyperventilating, yet she was scared and acted accordingly. Mannerism in social settings (women were approached and spoken to but it was not considered proper for them to initiate conversation) Pg. 268 Here we see again, a strong opinioned woman, Mrs. Selwyn is looked down upon because this quality of outspokenness and her cleverness is considered masculine.

Always asks Mr. Villars for guidance-Evelina can not handle any social situation because she does not think for herself because women were not taught to do so. Pg. 306 Evelina is distraught at her behavior and wishes for some guidance from Mr. Villars because she was never taught to think and act for herself.

"I am new to the world, and unused to acting for myself, --my intentions are never willfully blameful, yet I err perpetually!"Sexual Piety (women were supposed to be virtuous-discuss the origin of the word virtue-and keep themselves out of situations where their sexual morals appeared to be questionable) Virtue - derived from the latin vir meaning "manliness". Virtue has nothing to do with a woman, and with respect to man, virtue is the warlike quality that was prized by ancient human civilization. A woman may have all the nobler qualities of her sex-be a pattern of generosity, inspiration, religious emotionality, and if she is not "virtuous", or having never been approached inappropriately in a sexual manner she will never be considered virtuous. In essence, a woman may have a shining resume of wonderful disposition and wonderful character, but if her sexual reputation is tarnished, she will not be respected in the same way than if she were "pure". (Woodhull and Claflin p.

146) Reputation-p. 164 "nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman: it is, at once, the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things." (Mr. Villars) Woodhull and Claflin believe that "women must vindicate their right to an absolute freedom in their own conduct" (p 147)Also describe the responsibilities and proper actions of a well-bred "lady" of this time (must be charitable, good tempered, pleasant, dressed according to social status etc., have pity and show mercy toward those who are less fortunate, be respectful to her superiors-men, people of higher social status, and elders, etc.) P 216 Mr. Villars describes features a woman should have: gentleness and modesty, yet fortitude and firmness, when occasion demands them (he describes these as men's features that women should call upon when necessary). Pg.

386 "reverse not the law of nature" where Evelina's father is feeling unworthy to be in her presence because of all the hardships and heartache she has endured and he is kneeling to her. Evelina feels uncomfortable because she has been expected to kneel down before her elders all her life and she is embarrassed and does not know how to handle this situation. p. 384 Where Evelina is pleading with her father to see her and she here is the picture of what a good mannered woman should be - humble and gracious. Image as applies to association with people of questionable character: Although they are her family, Evelina is completely embarrassed to be seen with the Branghtons and Madame Duval because they are such loud, rude, unrefined characters.

They are not of the same social standing as her and they know even less than Evelina how to behave in social situations with grace and dignity. They are lower-class people and this is because they are of the working class. Evelina is always in the company of people who come from "old money" and do not work for a salary. Pg. 233 where Evelina is separated from her party at the fireworks event and asks two ladies to protect her and they turn out to be prostitutes and Lord Orville sees her with these women and Evelina is completely embarrassed at her predicament because it makes her look bad.

Evelina's good reputation was at stake when she was in public with the Branghtons, with Madame Duval, in the alley with Clement, and on the arms of those two prostitutes.

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