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ENL 4122
English Novel

Spring 2005
Time: Monday and Wednesday

Class 15

Reading Assignment:

Mar. 1 EvelinaVol. III, pp. 224-335
    Post #7 (Group B)
    Historical Annotation: Emily Davis's presentation


Class Objectives:

  • To discuss novel's conclusion and structure
  • To evaluate Lord Orville as Evelina's keeper


Notes and Discussion Questions:

1. Novel's conclusion and structure

Vol. I -- "Entrance into the World" -- self-mortification and failure of judgment.
Vol. II -- Holborn section -- Mortification of her "relations" Mme. Duval and the Branghtons
Vol. III -- Bristol and "High Life" -- Evelina is brought into company she "belongs" to but she is not identified by name or title, and so has to reveal herself in other acceptable ways

The novel adopts a language of possession, indicating that certain people belong to others. In what sense does Evelina belong to Mme. Duval? In what ways does she belong to the Branghtons? Why is Orville insistent on making Evelina "all my own"? Examine the discussion of "owning" Evelina on pp. 291-293.

How do we define family/community in this novel? How does the relocation in volume III establish Evelina in her right family (both symbolically and legally)? What models of community and family are rejected in the novel? What is held up as ideal?

Discuss the figure of the father in this work. How and why is it made so central to the plot?

Continuing our discussion of masculinity, what criticism does Burney offer on masculine violence in the novel? (This is of course complicated by Burney’s humor. In what ways?)

The violence of the novel has received a good deal of critical discussion in the last ten years. What response do you have, for instance, to the old ladies’ footrace? To the monkey biting Lovel? How does this reflect, if at all, the “propriety” of the female author?


2. The Female Bildungsroman: or How to choose a hunky husband.

Recall Blackstone's discussion of marriage law in his Commentaries. What happens to a woman's identity when she marries? Whose authority decides the actions of the union between husband and wife? What is the husband legally responsible for to provide for his wife?

Given this, why is it so important for a young woman to choose a husband carefully? And, why is this the subject of a novel? What, according to the novel, makes this care in choosing so difficult?

What does Evelina gain by marrying Orville? (legally, emotionally, financially, socially, etc.?)

What does she lose by marrying Orville?

Evaluate the character of Orville. Is he prince charming or wooden and unimaginative (as Margaret Doody would have it)? What are the implications for his new role as Evelina’s protector (father)?

Consider the following review which appeared shortly after the novel was published, from The Critical Review:

    “We could wish her husband had not been a lord, and that her father had been less rich. Lords and ladies cannot afford to spend their precious time in reading novels, and, if they could, they bear no proportion to the commonality of the literary world. The purchasers of novels, the subscribers to circulating libraries, are seldom in more elevated situations than the middle ranks of life. – The subjects of novels are, with a dangerous uniformity, almost always taken from superior life. The satirists complain with injustice of the want of virtue in our modern nobility; when the hero and heroine of every novel hardly ever fail, sooner or later, to turn out a lady or a lord. What effect has this on the readers? They are convinced that happiness is not to be found in the chilling climate of low life, nor even where one of our poets so truly fixed it, in the temperate zone of middle life. – Rank alone contains this unknown good, wealth alone can bestow this coveted joy. – The title of Sir Charles Grandison, the fortune of Miss Byron, are the least with which our young novel readers are determined to sit down satisfied. What is the consequence? Their fates have perhaps destined them to be a petty attorney or a silversmith’s daughter, a grocer’s son or a clergyman’s heiress; fortune positively refuses to realize any of their romantic dreams; and a quarter hour’s perusals of an unnatural novel has embittered all their lives” (562).

How does this contemporary response tie in with our discussion of marriage and money?



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