Woman as a Subordinate
Throughout history, women have been treated as a subordinate. There have been different standards for education, at womens 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 womans property act of New York that women gained some rights regarding material possessions.Order now
Education (differences in what men and women are taught) A liberal education as described in Defoes 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 mens 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 Burneys 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 husbands 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, Orvilles sister, is the most dramatic female character besides Madame Duval who is passionate and argumentative. Lady Louisa is a kind of 18th century Scarlet OHara. 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 guidanceEvelina 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