Mrs. Modely arrives to tell her that Sir Fredrick has stabbed himself in response to her ending their association and is on his deathbed and that his dying wish is to see her one more time. Although reluctant, her better nature allows her to be persuaded to see the dying man. On her arrival Sir Fredrick, the attending surgeon and parson immediately attempt to convince Betsy that she should marry him on his deathbed in order that he will accept the last rites and “prepare for the next world” (Haywood, 423) properly as any man should.
Confused and overwhelmed with the situation Betsy does not offer any resistance until the they attempt to place the ring on her finger when she cries ” Hold, Doctor, I cannot be married in this manner. ” (Haywood, 424) The surgeon replies that she is indeed married and they leave locking Betsy in the room with Sir Fredrick, a dying man, in order that he might consummate his marriage. Betsy too soon becomes aware of the treachery that she has fallen into. Sir Fredrick tosses aside the sword to reveal that he is not dying at all and attempts to takes his conjugal rights by raping her then there.
Fortunately for Betsy Mr. Trueworth is in the house visiting one of his retainers and hearing her screams rushes to her rescue. Once again she has had a lucky escape and is escorted home by Mr. Trueworth. Sir Fredrick In agreeing to see the fake Sir Fredrick as an act of kindness with no notion of behaving in anything but a proper manner she has inadvertently laid herself wide open to the same censure that she has experienced previously. Betsy’s behavior is regarded as being at fault again even though she intended only a simple act of mercy.
The end result of this incident is that her brothers determine that she must be married as soon as possible if they are to protect her honor and more importantly that of the family. Keeping her honor and virtue intact is synonymous with protecting the family honor and that is more important than any imposition placed on Betsy by this treacherous attack. For this reason the fake lord is allowed to go his own way without the serious consequences his behavior should result in and Betsy is pushed into marriage with Munden in order to prevent any more like occurrences.
The final rape attempt is orchestrated after her marriage by a Lord, supposedly a friend and patron of her husband. Her husband is sent on a contrived task by the Lord, and the supposed Lady who had joined them for dinner is called away on a family emergency. Unable to convince her that she will be doing her husband a service by surrendering all to him he attacks her in an attempt to gain by force that which she denies him. By good luck she avoids his assault and makes her way home safely, secure in the belief that she has behaved in the most proper fashion.
Imagine then her shock when Munden suggest that she should have repulsed the Lord in a far gentler manner rather than endanger his chances of gaining the Lord’s favor. Although she has behaved quite properly Munden blames her for the incident and makes no suggestion that the Lord has done anything wrong or inappropriate at all. This incident serves to point out another double standard of the period. It suggests that although her virtue was everything prior to her marriage Munden considers it expendable now that they are married.
The indication is that she should surrender to the Lord if it gains Munden his patronage. Betsy’s marriage results in further display of male violence. In his anger Munden picks up her beloved squirrel, given to her by Trueworth, and throws it to its death upon the hearth, an immutable symbol of home and happiness. The incident results out of an argument because Betsy needs more money to maintain the household as Munden expects she should. He goes so far as to suggest that she should use her pin money (money set aside for her personal use) for the purpose.
The irony that arises is that marriage is supposed to provide security and comfort for a woman. Not only is Betsy requested to help pay the household expenses out of her personal funds she is subjected to necessary violence from her husband in the heart of her home. To make matters worse she is advised by Lady Trusty that there is nothing she can do about the situation other than tread softly and hope that she can win Munden to her way of thinking by being gracious. A wife cannot criticize her husband but and accept his criticism graciously to satisfy the values of the period.
I believe that given the fact that Miss Betsy is an astute girl and well aware of the consequences of her behavior it is difficult to believe that it is possible for her to fall into the same situation over and over again. This being the case I would argue that these somewhat numerous, failed rape scenes are designed to create a picture of the way in which virtue and rape were regarded in Betsy’s time period. That view would seem to be one in which a woman’s virtue was the most important part of their character as it was directly tied to her honor and more importantly their families honor.
This emphasizes that her most important function was to protect that honor at all costs and should she not do so it was her fault no matter what the circumstances. The idea arising out of these scenes is that no matter what part a man plays in these incidents he is rarely ever punished for his actions while the innocent, if misguided, Betsy is left to the censure and consequences of his actions. The double standard of the period ensure that ultimately a woman has no power and a man had unlimited power that condones rape, violence and abuse of women.